Is boxing With Headgear Safer – Should I Wear One For Sparring

The words safe and boxing rarely go together but it makes sense that if you’re going to get involved in the sport that you would like it to be a safe as possible.

Wearing headgear is something that’s very common in the game, all amateur contests wear headgear and it was even a mainstay of the Olympics until 2016 when they removed the headgear to make it more like the pros and to get more people watching. As far as safety goes, opinion is very much divided on the effectiveness of headgear for reducing concussions and long-term brain injuries but it definitely does have some value it’s just a question of how much does it really protect the boxer and what can you do to insure but you don’t end up suffering a long-term injury.


Does Headgear Prevent Concussions In Boxing

Boxing Headgear 8

The jury is very much out on whether headgear will prevent the number of concussions in the sport, with some studies suggesting that it actually can increase the number of head injuries. The amount of cushioning on the headgear will soften the blow to an extent but if you are involved in heavy sparring or even fights using headgear, you can easily still suffer a concussion while wearing the protective head guard.

The brain is like the contents of a jar and if you shake it, the contents will rattle around and hit the edges. This is similar to your head where if you receive a punch, your head will move back causing your brain to knock against the skull which is what will cause the concussion, swelling and brain injuries, which can lead to even more problems further down the line.


Does headgear reduce knockouts?

The cushioning provided on a headgear can definitely take some of the impact off the punches. You should always spar in 16-oz gloves so that knockouts are not a common occurrence but if you do end up eating a big shot or you’re a bigger guy, sparring heavier hitting guys in the gym, the cushioning on the headgear will help to prevent the knockout.

Wearing headgear can make the fighter feel safer so they can take more risks and this may actually lead to them getting hit more and getting hit with bigger shots as they leave themselves open lunging in so you need to take this into account when deciding why there might be as many knockouts with headgear as without or even more.


Does Boxing Hurt With Headgear

Boxing Headgear 1

If you are a beginner worried about whether boxing will hurt when you’re not used to getting hit, then the answer is yes, it will hurt unless you were just going lightly with a partner and then it should be fine.

The headgear won’t cover your nose most times unless you have a full face headguard and taking a solid jab to the nose can always sting and cause the eyes to water, taking a reasonably strong shot on the chin will also cause you to lose focus and become a bit ‘buzzed’ as they say in the industry.

Body shots will often hurt more than the punches to the head and once you get into your sparing, you really shouldn’t notice the strikes hurting too much.


Should You Wear Headgear In Sparring

I’m a big believer in only going heavy in sparring 3 or 4 weeks before a fight and if you’re just going lightly with your partner’s and working on technique then there is no real need to use headgear. If you’re going hard in sparring then I would recommend that you wear headgear as it does offer benefits.


Main Benefit Of Headgear

The main benefit that you’re going to get from wearing headgear, especially one with cheek protectors or a full face headguard, is that it will prevent you from getting black eyes, cuts on the face, bruises and other marks.

Nobody wants to go into work sporting a black eye so if you are sparring quite hard it might be a good idea to wear a good set of headgear.


Removal Of Headgear From Boxing In Recent Times

Boxing Headgear 3

Boxing headgear is being removed from competition more and more in recent years. Most famously it has been removed from the 2016 Olympics and the qualifiers but this has not gone down well everywhere.

It is said by many that the Olympians are only trying to increase viewing numbers and revenue by removing the head guards and when boxers have to fight on consecutive days in qualifying, if they suffer a silly cut, they will be eliminated and that means that the best fighters are not even making it to the Olympics anymore.

Guys that have put a lot in, aiming for a gold medal have their dreams dashed, not because of skill but because of a silly clash of heads, elbow or punch landing on dry skin.

For these reasons, many boxes are now skipping the Olympics all together and going straight for the pros. They argue that if they are getting punched in the head with no headgear that they may as well be getting paid for it.

There is now also pro-am boxing, where Amateurs will compete with bigger gloves and without headgear which is probably better experience before going for the pros than going to the Olympics anyway.


Different Gyms Have Different Styles

Some gyms that you go into, especially Muay Thai or Kickboxing gyms will focus almost 100% on sparring and hard drills with your opponent, where you will constantly be getting hit in the head, even if your hand is blocking 99% of the blows.

Other gyms will focus a lot more on pads and bag work with less of an emphasis on drills and heavy sparring reducing the amount of trauma to the brain over time.

All gyms will usually have sparring and drill work so if you are worried about picking up brain injuries, try to find a gym that focuses more on pads and bags and you could also find a gym that promotes lighter sparring.

If you go to a gym where are all the fighters spar heavy all the time then you will definitely take blows to the head sooner or later, choose your gym wisely and pick a good coach.


Different types of boxing headgear

If you are in the market and thinking of buying headgear for your sparring, don’t forget to check out our boxing headgear buying guide for plenty of handy tips and tricks.


There are generally three types of boxing headgear picture:

Open Face Headgear

This is what has been traditionally used in amateur contests and the Olympics, the covers are on the side of the head, protecting from blows to the temple, behind the ears or to the chin, but it leaves the nose and the cheeks exposed which can lead to cuts, bruises and marking.


With Cheek Protectors

Meister Headgear

These are the most common, most popular version of headgear and the one that we would recommend if you are in the market, it’s like open face headgear except the cheeks are protected by 2 pieces of padding that fit tightly against the cheeks preventing any cuts around the eyes and bruising, black eyes and marking.

The extra padding also adds more weight and you need to make sure that your visibility isn’t impaired by the extra protection.


Full Face Headgear


Full face headgear attempts to cover all of the head, it usually has a protection strip across the front of the face to protect the nose as well as covering the cheeks and eyes from getting cut, marked and bruised as well.

If you can find a good full face headgear, then these are great, but they do add weight, slowing down your movement so you might get hit more and it can make a bigger for your opponent to hit.

Don’t forget to check out our best boxing headgear of 2020 for more information



Boxing Headgear 4

Wearing boxing headgear is never going to make boxing a completely safe sport but it can help to take some of the impact off the punches.

We would recommend using headgear where possible because it stops any cuts and bruises and it can reduce the amount of knockouts that can happen in the gym.

The jury is still out on whether or not it will reduce concussions, swelling and brain trauma over time and we recommend that you find a gym that doesn’t always go full force in heavy sparring all the time and find one that focuses more on pads, bags, light drills, light sparring and improving your technique tobecome a better fighter over time and not take too much needless damage.


Aidan Lehane has been involved in the fight game for well over 10 and has trained in some of the leading boxing gyms around the world including Sinbi Muay Thai and MTK Global Marbella. He wants to offer as much advice to beginners and pros as possible.

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