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View Full Version : Does sparring in Headgear, Head Protection or helmets. protect you or injure you?



Mogurisu
9/14/2017 12:37am,
No one has ever suggested that gloves don't protect a fighters hands and motorsports and cycling have proved that helmets save lives so it seems counter intuitive that full contact sparring with headgear actually does more harm than good. That seems to be the consensus of opinion however (certainly with AIBA and Olympic boxing).

It's fairly clear that headgear, especially full face gear protects against facial injuries. Some might call them cosmetic but my nose and teeth aren't just for show. I'm more interested in the internal brain injury/ concussion debate which seems to be open to opinion.

I'd like to pull together the evidence on this either way and try to come to an informed conclusion. Here's what I've been able to find so far but all evidence based input is appreciated (preferably with references)

Headguards pretty much halved the impact form a punch machine: Mc Intosh and Patton 2015
bjsm.bmj 1108.short (abstract only)

According to Hoshizaki et al. 2013
"In many cases, reconstructive research has shown that transient
concussion cases involve a protective helmet, but this may be reflective
of the commonality of concussion within contact sports requiring
head protection [5,6]. Without the presence of the helmet the impact
conditions (compliance, velocity, etc.) would likely have resulted in
magnitudes of response associated with TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] [54]. However, with the
introduction of the helmet, the brain strain magnitudes are reduced
to where concussion is a more expected outcome."
The Relationship between Head Impact Characteristics and Brain Trauma (full text Pdf download available on researchgate net


This points to headgear reducing impacts. Yes there are concussions but with out the helmet they could have been brain injuries.


I've found the rationale by Charles Butler of AIBA on why they changed the rules on amateur boxing, despite what the media says it has nothing to do with headgear increasing concussive force. The problem was that boxers were slamming their heads together, something they'd never do without headgear, and the concssive damage was being caused by this 'weaponisation of the head'

centrechatbleu.com AIBA Headgear Analysis

That's enough from me, I'll look forward to seeing some supporting or countering evidence. I'm too new on the forum to post links so I've had to break them into key words, apologies for any confusion.

BKR
9/14/2017 10:37am,
There is a lot of research out there regarding helmets to reduce concussion, particularly in American Football.

The traditional helmet protects from fractures, sub-dural hematoma, etc., but not so much concussions, because the brain still rattles back and forth in your skull on impact.

Personally, I've had more concussions from Judo than anything else, other than "real life", i.e., off the tatami.

So I'll drop a few links, not all are research papers...
https://www.childrenscolorado.org/conditions-and-advice/new-and-featured-articles/sports-safety/do-high-tech-helmets-prevent-concussions/

https://www.sportsafetyinternational.org/new-football-helmet-study/

https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/1241

https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/1241

No helmets in Judo, LOL...

Mogurisu
9/14/2017 12:48pm,
There is a lot of research out there regarding helmets to reduce concussion, particularly in American Football.

The traditional helmet protects from fractures, sub-dural hematoma, etc., but not so much concussions, because the brain still rattles back and forth in your skull on impact.

Personally, I've had more concussions from Judo than anything else, other than "real life", i.e., off the tatami.

So I'll drop a few links, not all are research papers...
https://www.childrenscolorado.org/conditions-and-advice/new-and-featured-articles/sports-safety/do-high-tech-helmets-prevent-concussions/

https://www.sportsafetyinternational.org/new-football-helmet-study/

https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/1241

https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/1241

No helmets in Judo, LOL...

Thanks for sharing that. It's interesting that the articles in the first two links refer to the research paper explained in the second two links. It's the same problem that I've noticed with the boxing headgear stuff I originally posted about and a lot of articles in general. The headline/article misrepresents the research and gives a false impression that is then waved around as a scientific fact.

The example in the sport safety international link is a good one, the headline: Do Helmets Prevent Concussions? New Study Says No!

What the study actually says: Yes helmets do reduce concussions and brain trauma caused by rotational forces but not as much as you might think (or like).
"The study found that football helmets on average reduced the risk of traumatic brain injury by only 20 percent compared to not wearing a helmet. Of the 10 helmet brands tested, the Adams a2000 provided the best protection against concussion and the Schutt Air Advantage the worst."

It goes on to say that they are much better at protecting against the linear forces that cause skull fractures etc but not as effective against against rotational forces. That's very different form the implication that they don't provide any protection against rotational force and even further from 'they amplify concussive forces', the discussion that inspired this thread.

Pulling back to 'is it safer to do full contact sparring with a helmet or without a helmet?' the evidence is still pointing towards wearing the helmet, and trying not to get dropped on your head.
There are vast differences in helmet Headgear technology of course but one appear to be worse than an unprotected head.

kimjonghng
9/16/2017 7:51am,
I've seen various claims one way or another but personally, the ones we use for our training come with a face visor of clear plastic and definitely prevent bruising and obvious damge, but by no means take the force out of a blow, if you get hit, even fully in the visor, you still recoil and the force goes through.

I'm aware there's discussion in the white collar boxing community in my area about if they actually make damage worse with the ones they use, but aside from the headgaurd I use for MMA or for point sparring in karate (the standard blitz neon red thing >_> ) I cant say for certain how much any of the other types help

Mogurisu
9/16/2017 4:55pm,
if you get hit, even fully in the visor, you still recoil and the force goes through.

You certainly know you've been hit, though the research indicates that there is still some reduction in force. I've tried boxing headgear and an ice hockey helmet for full contact. The ice hockey helmet worked better though a solid hit would still rattle your cage. At least it keeps you honest.

The amateur boxing community debate all seems to stem from some unpublished research done by AIBA and it's subsequent misrepresentation in the media. Even in their rationale for the rule change AIBA never state that headgear amplifies concussive forces.

I can post the link to the rationale and the in depth analysis now (pdf download)
http://www.centrechatbleu.com/competition/AIBA_Headgear_Analysis.pdf

I'm quite certain my propositions would have been shredded by this forum if I was way off the mark on this. I'll take that as a positive sign when encouraging the use of headgear in sparring.

Michael Tzadok
9/16/2017 5:11pm,
You certainly know you've been hit, though the research indicates that there is still some reduction in force. I've tried boxing headgear and an ice hockey helmet for full contact. The ice hockey helmet worked better though a solid hit would still rattle your cage. At least it keeps you honest.

The amateur boxing community debate all seems to stem from some unpublished research done by AIBA and it's subsequent misrepresentation in the media. Even in their rationale for the rule change AIBA never state that headgear amplifies concussive forces.

I can post the link to the rationale and the in depth analysis now (pdf download)
http://www.centrechatbleu.com/competition/AIBA_Headgear_Analysis.pdf

I'm quite certain my propositions would have been shredded by this forum if I was way off the mark on this. I'll take that as a positive sign when encouraging the use of headgear in sparring.

Interesting. My understanding from looking into this a while back(sorry don't remember all the sources to link them) was that head gear "caused" a greater number of hits to the head and thus a larger number of concussions. These increased head strikes were the result of a number of factors, such as reduced peripheral vision, a larger target, and a (false)sense of security which caused the fighter to be more willing to take a shot to the head.

Mogurisu
9/17/2017 1:46am,
Interesting. My understanding from looking into this a while back(sorry don't remember all the sources to link them) was that head gear "caused" a greater number of hits to the head and thus a larger number of concussions. These increased head strikes were the result of a number of factors, such as reduced peripheral vision, a larger target, and a (false)sense of security which caused the fighter to be more willing to take a shot to the head.

I've seen references to those possibilities in some of the articles I've seen but only fighters taking more risks is mentioned in the AIBA rationale itself.

Another thing that comes up in the analysis document is that KOs are 10 times more likely in fights without headgear. Since the general understanding is that KOs are the result of traumatic brain rattling you would expect that significantly more headshots landing would increase KOs as well as concussions, unless the headgear was providing protection.

As I understand KOs from a blow to the head are considered a greater risk factor for long term neurological damage than concussion, so surely reducing KOs would be deemed 'safer'.
I'm not a boxer so the AIBA ruling doesn't concern me as much as the misinformation that has spread from it into full contact sparring in other disciplines.

It's worth noting that people who spar in head gear may get lazy and rely on the helmet. Something to be wary of if you regularly spar this way.

submessenger
9/17/2017 1:58am,
Interesting. My understanding from looking into this a while back(sorry don't remember all the sources to link them) was that head gear "caused" a greater number of hits to the head and thus a larger number of concussions. These increased head strikes were the result of a number of factors, such as reduced peripheral vision, a larger target, and a (false)sense of security which caused the fighter to be more willing to take a shot to the head.

Sounds rational - helmet means a greater surface area to strike, plus friction... I don't think anyone is smearing vaseline on headgear before a fight.

kimjonghng
9/17/2017 3:41am,
You certainly know you've been hit, though the research indicates that there is still some reduction in force. I've tried boxing headgear and an ice hockey helmet for full contact. The ice hockey helmet worked better though a solid hit would still rattle your cage. At least it keeps you honest.

The amateur boxing community debate all seems to stem from some unpublished research done by AIBA and it's subsequent misrepresentation in the media. Even in their rationale for the rule change AIBA never state that headgear amplifies concussive forces.

I can post the link to the rationale and the in depth analysis now (pdf download)
http://www.centrechatbleu.com/competition/AIBA_Headgear_Analysis.pdf

I'm quite certain my propositions would have been shredded by this forum if I was way off the mark on this. I'll take that as a positive sign when encouraging the use of headgear in sparring.

Sorry I wasnt meaning to imply the force isnt reduced, you still feel it like you said. Its not like you can still stand there and take headshots without budging.

I'm pretty sure arguing protective wear 'amplifies the force' is flawed. If it did we most likely wouldnt have protective wear under a lot of other circumstances.

Michael Tzadok
9/17/2017 6:23am,
I've seen references to those possibilities in some of the articles I've seen but only fighters taking more risks is mentioned in the AIBA rationale itself.

Another thing that comes up in the analysis document is that KOs are 10 times more likely in fights without headgear. Since the general understanding is that KOs are the result of traumatic brain rattling you would expect that significantly more headshots landing would increase KOs as well as concussions, unless the headgear was providing protection.

As I understand KOs from a blow to the head are considered a greater risk factor for long term neurological damage than concussion, so surely reducing KOs would be deemed 'safer'.
I'm not a boxer so the AIBA ruling doesn't concern me as much as the misinformation that has spread from it into full contact sparring in other disciplines.

It's worth noting that people who spar in head gear may get lazy and rely on the helmet. Something to be wary of if you regularly spar this way.

The problem with the various studies, by and large, is that they have been correlative and haven't spent sufficient time one causation. The two are not necessarily linked. There are a bunch of funny talks about this(the difference between correlation and causation) on Youtube.

So we have a correlation between the advent of the usage of protective headgear and concussion. That is an empirical fact. What is far more foggy is what is causing that correlation if anything at all.

For instance it could be the explosion in sport science in the last 30-40 years that has trickled down into actual training methods meaning people are now physically punching harder than they were 40yrs ago. Or it could be any of the issues that I mentioned above. Or it could be a combination of all of the above.

Mogurisu
9/17/2017 4:23pm,
The problem with the various studies, by and large, is that they have been correlative and haven't spent sufficient time one causation. The two are not necessarily linked. There are a bunch of funny talks about this(the difference between correlation and causation) on Youtube.

So we have a correlation between the advent of the usage of protective headgear and concussion. That is an empirical fact. What is far more foggy is what is causing that correlation if anything at all.

For instance it could be the explosion in sport science in the last 30-40 years that has trickled down into actual training methods meaning people are now physically punching harder than they were 40yrs ago. Or it could be any of the issues that I mentioned above. Or it could be a combination of all of the above.

All very true. The concussion data also comes from an unpublished study so no one has been able to evaluate the methodology. And there is the reduction in KOs, another way that you could feasibly measure head trauma in fighters.

In any case I appreciate the chance to discuss it. Much better than just blindly accepting misleading headlines and the associated hearsay.

Permalost
9/17/2017 6:11pm,
I still hate getting hit in the head when I'm wearing headgear. I've never had a punch or kick flying at my head and thought "meh, I'm wearing headgear, I'll just eat that strike".

MisterMR
9/18/2017 3:10am,
For instance it could be the explosion in sport science in the last 30-40 years that has trickled down into actual training methods meaning people are now physically punching harder than they were 40yrs ago.

MY brother, who is a boxe coach, once told me that there is a big difference between contemporary boxe and the boxe of, say, the 70s, precisely because modern boxers are on average much more explosive due to more modern method of exercise.
I think this is true of judo, too (although this has nothing to do with headgear).

Mogurisu
9/18/2017 7:35am,
MY brother, who is a boxe coach, once told me that there is a big difference between contemporary boxe and the boxe of, say, the 70s, precisely because modern boxers are on average much more explosive due to more modern method of exercise.
I think this is true of judo, too (although this has nothing to do with headgear).

It's certainly an interesting idea, and not one I've considered before. It probably applies to a lot of sports as our understanding of physiology, biomechanics and training methods has improved over the years. We also have improvements in how we measure things as well as medical diagnosis, treatment and reporting so comparing performance and injuries from one time period to another becomes even more difficult.

big maclol
9/30/2017 3:33am,
I feel like studies can lack context

Headlines such as "with these studies we actually found out that wearing gloves are bad for your hands!"