Study Shows Headgear Does Not Lessen Impact From Hooks

The combination of headgear and boxing gloves does not lessen the risk of concussions resulting from a well-placed hook. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

An absolutely fantastic study from a group of physicians from the Cleveland Clinic has found that the combination of headgear and boxing gloves do nothing to lessen damage from a rotational strike. This study involved a crash dummy head and weighted pendulum effectively simulating a punch. The punch could either be linear (jabs, straights, crosses, etc.) or rotational punches (hooks). The metric used in this study is the amount of force that was experienced by the head (units of gs) or the rotational velocity of the head (units of rad/sec).

Five different combinations of protective gear were chosen in this study: bare knuckle - bare head (control), MMA gloves - bare head, boxing gloves - bare head, protective headgear - bare hands, and protective headgear - boxing gloves. Also the punches can be either low impact or high impact.

In terms of linear punches, more padding equates to a lesser force for both high impact and low impact punches. The control experienced an impact dosage of 232 g. Each of the combinations of one layer of padding experienced a significant decrease in impact, ranging from 117 g for the MMA glove to 144 g for the boxing glove. As expected, the combination of glove and headgear produced the lowest impact dosage at only 65 g, a 72% reduction of force. Similar results were seen for the low impact punches.

The interesting part of the study focuses on the angular velocity experienced by the head after a simulated hook. It seems that there is no correlation between the amount of padding and the reduction of angular velocity. In fact, the padding seems to not lessen the angular velocity at all with the combination headgear and glove experiences the exact same angular velocity as the control. The padding lessened angular acceleration versus the control but the angular momentum transfer was again the same as the control.

This result is particularly worrying since rotational impacts have been linked to concussions. The current technology used for both gloves and headgear does not reduce the risk of concussions if the opponent lands a solid hook. Next-generation headgear must address this issue in order to protect amateur athletes from serious harm. Also further study including a simulation of uppercuts would be desirable.

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