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The time for mandatory headgear in boxing and MMA is long overdue!

August 06, 2019 - 2:51 pm

By Charlie O @Charlieo1320

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Professional boxing recently saw two fighters die in one week – one in the United States and one in Argentina. Both tragic deaths were the result of severe head trauma.

In the case of the boxer who died in the USA, he was from Russia and was a husband and father to a young son. Yes, he knew his sport was brutal and came with the risk of severe injury, but I am sure he would have never rejected using head protection if it was required by the boxing commission.

Claims that removing headgear reduces concussions

In 2016, the International Boxing Association claimed that concussions decreased by more than 40 percent when headgear was not used by the fighters. According to the Toronto Star, their research did not track concussions but recorded referee stoppages in the ring to head as evidence of possible concussions.

More concussions with mandatory headgear

In a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, concussions tripled when headgear became mandatory in amateur boxing. In fact, referee stoppages because of head blows did increase when headgear was first required. The study went on to state that knockouts with the combination of head guards and computer punch-count scoring were significantly reduced.

The Zurich Consensus

The Zurich Consensus – which some call the gold standard in prevention – concludes “there is no good clinical evidence that currently available protective equipment will prevent concussion.” The study does not say to stop using the head protection or to stop trying to develop better head protection.

Neurologist Paul McCory – the lead author of the Zurich Consensus – has criticized the International Boxing Association for its moves to “professionalize” the sport (removing the headgear) and for not working with international concussion experts to develop guidelines to protect athletics.

Current equipment is not the ultimate

No one is saying that the current headgear is the ultimate in protection. Boxing commissions and groups like MMA need to be working with neurologist and scientist to design, test and implement the best possible head protection for their athletes.

This is not a one-time effort that would be over after the development of the next generation of headgear. This needs to be an on-going research effort that takes advantage of the latest findings to keep improving the safety of the sports on a continual basis.

The sanctioning bodies need to act

The various boxing associations and mixed martial arts groups need to voluntarily take on this task to protect their athletes and their sports. If the government – judicial or legislative – has to get involved, everyone is going to lose.

The time to act is now.

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