Update February 28, 2023 –
After writing this article I decided to conduct a quick poll to inquire about people’s knowledge about headgear when they first sparred.
Although Twitter polls are not scientific this poll largely mirrors my discussion with many combat sports practitioners. The majority mis-understand the safety benefits of headgear. And many wrongly believe/assume they can prevent concussions. They can’t. This is persuasive reason for manufacturers to clearly label their products to help let the public know headgear use does not protect brain health when sparring or competing.
Headgear does not prevent concussions or other brain injuries. According to the Association of Ringside Physicians latest consensus statement on headgear “Headguards have not been shown to prevent concussion in any combat sport or other sport“. In fact they can even increase the risk with combatants often sparring harder when wearing headgear with the ARP noting “The matter is confounded by the documented use of more defensive behaviors and less risk-taking during competition when not wearing headguards“.
Despite this headgear manufactures don’t appear to warn customers that their products do not prevent brain injury.
Football helmet manufactures learned the lesson the hard way. Through litigation. A safety product that does not prevent a key injury should come with a warning. Failure to warn can lead to legal liability.
Football manufactures now warn customers that their helmets do not protect against brain injury.
Clicking the highlighted link takes the prospective customer to a full warning that reads as follows:
NO HELMET CAN PREVENT SERIOUS HEAD OR NECK INJURIES A PLAYER MIGHT RECEIVE WHILE PARTICIPATING IN FOOTBALL.
…Contact in football may result in CONCUSSION-BRAIN INJURY which no helmet can prevent. Symptoms include: loss of consciousness or memory, dizziness, headache, nausea or confusion. If you have symptoms, immediately stop playing and report them to your coach, trainer and parents. Do not return to a game or practice until all symptoms are gone and you have received medical clearance. Ignoring this warning may lead to another and more serious or fatal brain injury.
When shopping for combat sports headgear these warnings are notably absent for many manufacturers. Not only that but some sellers of gear even suggest they help reduce concussions or make other vague non limiting boasts about safety.
Given the clear medical position of the ARP combat sports manufacturers have no legal excuse not to warn customers about their real limitations when it comes to traumatic brain injury. The common law dealing with negligence and product liability requires manufacturers to warn customers of any risks associated with their products that are known or reasonably foreseeable. Headgear is designed to be worn while customers take serial hits to the head. An activity not just linked with concussions and other acute brain injuries but also CTE. A lack of protection from these serious injuries is vital information.
It would be wise to do this proactively and not wait to learn the expensive lessons of litigation.