Over the past few decades, sports, in general, have seen a major improvement in taking safety precautions in dangerous contact sports like rugby and amateur boxing. More young professionals are wearing headgear to help protect themselves from crucial head injuries which could heavily affect their future and could lead to early retirement.
However, are these safety precautions actually working and doing their job in protecting these young and up incoming athletes. Well, some scientific studies have shown that yes they work in some aspects but they also are not and are in fact causing more issues than fixing them. The headgear themselves are more beneficial in different sports such as rugby but in other sports, like amateur Boxing, they are only causing problems.
For the first time in twenty-four years, the Olympics made the decision to get rid of headgear in boxing, as this made it look a lot more like the professional boxing spectators are used to rather than the usual amateur style we have become accustomed to. This decision was made by the International Boxing Association (AINA) where they said that this decision came down to safety. The referees who were in control of each fight were forced to stop more fights due to head injuries (especially concussions) occurring mid-fight. The strange thing about this is that it was happening a lot more frequently when the fighters were wearing headgear than without it.
Cynthia Bir, a highly qualified professor in emergency medicine at the Southern California University said that the rule change was rather surprising for a lot of people and that there’s still lots of research that needs to be done. The surprising thing is that she is part of the research department who evaluates boxing equipment for USA Boxing. For her to say that there is still a lot to learn in the protection of the headgear shows that there is room for improvement and headgear could still make a return in future events.
Some of the main causes for the headgear not being very useful are that the foam padding isn’t very protective against heavy blows and are still prone to the risk of head injuries when in use. The fighter’s jaws are also still exposed to punches which lead to concussions as the head is whipped around which can cause serious damage to the brain. The headgear can also obstruct the fighter’s view causing the fighters to feel a false sense of security when they are fighting and will only make punches harder to dodge. Another theory is that fighters will take more risks due to them thinking that they are more protected with the headgear which of course will lead to them being punched more leading to a potential head injury.
It’s especially hard to study the headgear’s effectiveness due to how much damage the heavy blows can cause to each individual person. A single punch could affect one person differently from another as it may cause more damage in one person but then may do very little to someone else, due to people having different head and neck structures.
Another thing to think about though is concussions aren’t the only severe head injuries boxers can get. They can also suffer from long term consequences after receiving constant head trauma after receiving multiple heavy blows from each fight. The constant blows don’t take an immediate effect but they could also lead to a brain disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or, CTE. The disease continues to develop and become worse over time. CTE can also lead to many different disabilities and conditions such as Dementia, Parkinsonism and Anxiety.
So overall in Amateur Boxing, the headgear is proving to be a liability inside the ring as the young athletes still suffer from dangerous head and neck injuries as well as long term illness. However there is still lots of research needed for the headgear to be what it needs to be, so it may take some time but they will definitely make a return in the future.
In Rugby, it is a totally different story as it has been shown that headgear is actually saving the players from early retirement and making their lives after their career much healthier as they won’t suffer from any major brain diseases. Even scientists have decided that headgear should be made essential in the sport as it has been studied that the headgear can almost reduce the force on player’s heads by an amazing 50%.
The study took place at the University of Dundee where a rugby team was tested while wearing different pieces of equipment on their heads. It was recorded that there was a 47% reduction on the impact caused to the player’s heads when using the equipment. The study showed that even the least effective pieces of equipment used made a serious difference in the amount of impact and damage caused to the player’s heads as well as preventing any injuries.
Following the scientist's studies, they are now trying to make the headgear mandatory in both amateur and professional rugby as it will severely decrease the amount of head and neck injuries caused to players on the field.
Professor Rami Abboud, from the University of Dundee, had his own say on the head injuries that occur in rugby. “The issue of head injuries in rugby, such as concussions, has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, with players often exposed to extreme forces.”
This story on Rugby safety is the total opposite from the one in amateur boxing. The comparison shows both the good and bad sides of wearing ‘safety’ headgear. In boxing, it only causes more problems for the young athletes but in Rugby, the headgear is helping both young and older players from suffering from major head and neck injuries.
But what happens to the retired athletes who have experienced major injuries to the head and brain? Well the NHL is the perfect example, as it was hit with a massive lawsuit from over 300 retired players who experienced head injuries while competing in the league. The players said that the league failed to protect them from the injuries and didn’t warn them of the possible outcomes.
The lawsuit was carried out in a federal court in the State of Minnesota, which is one of the largest in league history. In total, the settlement was worth approximately $19 million. This sounds like a lot but actually, it’s not especially compared to the National Football League. The NFL had the same sort of lawsuit with retired players however they agreed on a staggering one billion dollars to go towards medical treatment and just a sum of money as an apology.