Combat sports such as Boxing, Muay Thai and MMA involve the whole body and can help toning the muscles, increasing strength, improving reflexes and myriad of other useful benefits. In combat, there is a very high chance of getting punched in the face by the opponent to deliver a knockout and end the bout quickly. When you’re sparring however, the goal is to learn technique and effective fighting experience without causing knockouts and severe damage.
Headgear has many benefits and can dampen or sometimes nullify the impact of punches directed towards the face depending on the model. Using headgear can have a very game changing effect during sparring matches and can give the wearer a great defensive edge. That edge can lead to opening up of many possibilities for the wearer to execute during the match such as a window to launch a better counterattack, ability to use body as a bait and use head-butts without much worry in the way of head injury.
The main purpose of wearing headgear during a sparring match of any sport like Boxing, MMA, Muay Thai etc. is to minimize the impact of the potentially harmful blows to the facial area and the brain. The foam padding used in headgear is very useful in absorbing the nasty and harmful impact from incoming blows on the facial area and does a good job in keeping the brain adequately protected.
Origin of the Headgear
Headgear was introduced to provide vital protection to the head and facial area as a human head controls nearly 90% of all important functions performed by the human body. It was invented to minimize and dampen the effect of incoming blows from the adversary which may in some cases lead to potentially dangerous and sometimes life-threatening consequences for a fighter.
Headgears have been around since the days of the boxing icon Jack Dempsey, who at the time requested his local sports manufacturer to produce a headgear that could last at least fifteen rounds of intense sparring. They managed to succeed and the trend of wearing headgears developed and continued to evolve from then onwards.
Boxing headgear was first officially introduced at the Olympics games in 1984. The reason was that in preceding games, many series of brutal knockout finishes led to some life threatening injuries to the players. The committee introduced headgears as a form of protection against such injuries and from then onwards headgears became an iconic part of boxing identity. This also led to other combat sports like MMA and Muay Thai to introduce headgear in their successive tournaments for safety reasons.
Benefits of Headgear
Prevents Potential Knockout
Using headgear can provide vital protection against knockout blows by cushioning the blows and dissipating the impact. This gives the user a great window to deliver a devastating counterattack which may have a deciding impact on the bout. It also reduces the chance of concussions or any form of head injury
Protects from Elbows
Sparring against an unyielding and tough opponent can be very grinding. In boxing, both contestants may use their arms and elbows to get some distance between each other. In MMA and Muay Thai, elbow strikes are a part of the game. Using headgear can provide critical protection in such moments and may tilt the match in favor of better-equipped users in wake of a battle of attrition.
Protects from Head-butts
The use of headgear is handy in situations in which an opponent uses head-butts in their matches. A head-butt from a skilled opponent can have devastating effects. It can cause concussions and serious injuries and also sometimes work as a knockout blow. Having a piece of headgear can help avoid the detrimental impacts of head-butts.
Prevents Cuts and Bruises
One of the major advantages of wearing headgear during a match is that it provides adequate protection against nasty cuts and bruises. The best thing to keep yourself safe—apart from wearing boxing gloves and possessing a tough body—is to wear a head guard. A cut close to your eyes can damage your vision.
Wearing headgear provides a psychological advantage to the user. For an amateur fighter, wearing headgear can provide a great sense of confidence in oneself and allow the user to release their full potential during combat. Wearing headgear allows any fighter to free themselves from worrying about protecting their face from blows. It helps them focus better on the ongoing match, delivering their signature moves and releasing their inner potential without much worry about their facial protection.
Types of Headgears
Full Face Headgear
This headgear provides protection around the whole face, including the areas of forehead and chin. Its protective structure has been designed in a way that it facilitates both boxers and MMA fighters. These are typically well-ventilated and constructed with lightweight materials, making for greater agility during training.
Cheek Protector Headgear
Designed to safeguard forehead, eyes and cheeks and specifically serve the needs of professional boxers and fighters. These headgears are recommended for the professionals who are looking for a little more freedom of movement. However, less experienced fighters who want a little more padding around their heads, should not go for this kind of headgear.
This particular headgear is focused on protecting one’s nose and jaw during brisk sparring. Any kind of nose injuries, nosebleeds, and jaw damage can be prevented with this gear. Fitting is key with this kind of headgear, which is why some have adjustable laces and can be tightened to conform to your unique head shape.
The main reason many boxers tend to lean towards this kind of headgear is because it is designed to balance protection with an improved sense of vision. It is specifically built for boxing sparring, since the nose and jaw are typically affected the most during such sessions.
Being heavily padded with a metal bar, you’ll find it to be very sturdy in build, but also a bit heavier than other types of headgear.
Open Face Headgear
Open-face headgear is the least protective type of headgear for fighters, and commonly used in beginner fight competitions including boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai. It assists protection on the forehead, ears, and cheeks. The main purpose of this headgear is to provide the best possible view to the fighter without having any padding in between.
They are mostly sought after by amateur fighters, as their professional fights mandate this type of headgear. Overall view, this headgear provides protection to most important areas of the face and does not act as a barrier to vision.
Full Face Grill Headgear
Typically used during intense training or traditional martial arts/ karate. It safeguards all areas of the face including forehead, cheeks, chin, ears and face causing the bruises and injuries to minimize to the full extent.
For those who can’t bear heavy weighted headgear but need full coverage, they can opt for this headgear type. Full face grill headgear basically contains a PVC plastic cage that withstands the hardest of the strikes and hits. An advantage of using this headgear is that it provides a wide-angle for superior visibility.
Types of Fasteners
Lace fasteners are tighter and stay tightly conformed, however they are difficult to put on without a partner.
This type of closure is designed for convenience and easy adjustment, however it will not provide a comparable fitting to lace headgears.
What to Look for in Headgear
Finding good headgear is something more than just searching for a pair of gloves. There are other important factors involved as well. Below mentioned are some factors that should be taken into consideration while finding good headgear;
Most headgear don’t give you clear vision and impair your reflexes. Thus, one should always look for a headgear with maximum visibility, so that you can compete with your opponent equally.
Breathing problems are another side effect of poor headgear, because they are improperly padded and pushed onto your face. Before you purchase any headgear, make sure to test it out to determine if it is adequately ventilated or not.
Fixed in one Place
Many headgears don’t stay in one place while fighting. On each strike, these headgears move and make it irritating to respond timely. Thus, always get headgear in a size that fits you perfectly or get it custom made.
Headgear is best, when made of leather or synthetic leather, as they are one of the most dependable materials for headgears.
Ought for the headgear that has smooth surfaces with no edges. This is mainly advised, because headgear with edges can result in different injuries on the face.
The ability of headgear to keep out moisture is a crucial quality. Warm, damp environments are the ideal breeding grounds for bacteria and germs, which produce unpleasant odors and may result in staph infection. This staph infection can prove to be quite deadly.
Combat sports are competitive and tough on the body while having a high probability of causing injuries. Sometimes those injuries may prove serious and in some rare cases, fatal. Cases of fatalities that have occurred in fighting were all virtually caused by blows to the head.
So wearing a head guard is very important in terms of personal safety and to ensure protection against other injuries while allowing for a better sense of security and confidence for fighters.