Gloves, Padded Headgear Helps Protect Boxers

FRIDAY Feb. 10, 2012 -- Using padded headgear and boxing gloves helps boxers reduce the impact of hits to the head, a new study finds.

The Cleveland Clinic researchers also said that head and neck impacts accumulate fastest in boxers who don't wear headgear and that protective padding is especially important for young boxers.

The study was conducted using a crash test dummy and a pendulum to replicate hook punches to the head. The impacts were measured in five situations: without headgear or boxing gloves; with headgear and boxing gloves; with headgear but no boxing gloves; with boxing gloves but no headgear; and with mixed martial arts-style gloves without headgear.

The researchers measured both linear (straight line) impacts and rotational impacts, such as those that cause the head to rotate on the neck.

Overall, the boxing gloves/headgear combination was the most effective in reducing impact forces. All the padding combinations helped reduce linear impact forces, but none lessened rotational impact forces.

The study was published online Feb. 7 in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

"There is ample medical literature that points to rotational impacts as being key contributors to head and neck injuries," lead researcher Adam Bartsch, director of the Spine Research Lab in Cleveland Clinic's Center for Spine Health, said in a clinic news release.

"However, padding used for boxing and mixed martial arts are still designed to primarily reduce linear -- not rotational -- acceleration. More work is needed to develop better protective padding to minimize both linear and rotational forces," he added.

The findings support the belief that that head and neck impacts accumulate fastest in fighters who don't use protective headgear, according to the researchers.

"These results show that gloves and headgear can offer some meaningful protection, proving that fighters -- especially young fighters -- should wear headgear whenever possible," Dr. Edward Benzel, chair of Cleveland Clinic's Department of Neurological Surgery, said in the news release.

More information

Read the American Academy of Pediatrics' statement on kids and boxing here.

Posted: February 2012


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