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Boxers can deliver punches with force ranging from 450 pounds to more than 1000 pounds. On a majority of occasions, these punches are delivered to the head.

How do boxers train their heads so that they can withstand such tremendous punch force?

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2 Answers 2

They don't train their head. They train their ability to dodge out of the way of the punch, block it, or take enough of its force out of the equation as to impact with a lot less force or impact on part of the head or body that is more protected.

It's true that boxers can generate huge amounts of force with their punches. But that force is measured using a target pad that's solid and doesn't move. So it will register the full amount of force.

When a boxer punches a human "target", however, the human target is not solid and not held in place. Even if the punch hits the head without any deflection or blocking, the head is not firmly in place and will bob and twist, dissipating much of the force.

It's like hitting a speed bag. The speed bag will just bounce off your fist. It won't feel the same as punching a heavy bag. You won't feel the force going back into your arm.

Also, people flinch automatically at the sight of anything coming close to their face, and so that will move the target off-line or behind the focus point, causing the punch to impact with less force.

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There's basically a few things going on, for boxers, or any heavy contact sport that involves potential head hits:

Neck muscles are stabilizers

In general, better stabilizer muscles for the head helps reduce concussion rates. Less whiplash effect means less brain damage.

This means neck, shoulder, and spinal strength training helps. The rates for high school sports shows that some sports, like soccer or volleyball, end up with worse concussion rates than you'd expect, mostly because few teams include that kind of strength conditioning for those muscles - they've got nothing to help reduce the effect when they DO take a head hit.

Take the hit on the strongest part of the head

The skull is stronger than the jaw or the nose. Tucking your chin into your shoulder gives your chin some cover, and makes the tougher part of the head the bigger target. Face hits, jaw hits and neck hits take people down a lot more than any shot straight to the skull will.

Some of this is trained by stance, some is trained by drills and sparring.

Rolling with Punches

Taking some of the force off a hit by giving in, "fading" or bob and weaving to reduce the force. This takes a lot of drills and sparring for folks get skilled in. Really good boxers can pull this off enough that someone keeps thinking they're -just- about to connect and all they get is a glancing shot at best.

Concussions are always bad

All the above said, it's really important to know that boxers aren't trying to "take" these hits. They're not out-toughing these shots. You keep your guard up, you bob and weave. You don't train to take them, you train to NOT take them.

Medical science is showing that concussion injuries stack up over a lifetime and problems you get from them may not manifest until years later. Or, you might just die from a concussion stacking with the effects of previous concussions. Don't think of it as special training to take hits, it's training to avoid them or take them with the least amount of force when it happens.

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"Concussions are always bad" is exactly right. Those who sustain repeated head injuries do not fare well. Dementia pugilistica ("boxer's dementia") is by no means limited to boxers, but there's a reason that clumsy old guys with slurred speech are called "punchy." –  Jonathan Eunice Aug 5 at 17:34
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Concussions cause permanent brain damage. "recovery" is basically 10 days to several months where it can happen, but it's mostly your brain rewiring around the damage. This is why concussions "build" upon each other - eventually you get enough damage things can't route around it. –  Bankuei Aug 5 at 17:49
    
@Bankuei - Excellent point. Case in point, the efforts in hockey and football to mitigate head contact, and the recent class action lawsuit around head injuries in football and concussions. Autopsies of many athletes who have multiple head impacts show CTE in the brain (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). grantland.com/features/… –  JohnP Aug 14 at 17:32

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