We have two scientifically proven facts that seem to contradict:

  1. Amateur bouts (where they wear headgear) have fewer knockouts than professional bouts (where they don't wear headgear)

  2. Amateur bouts without headgear had fewer concussions than amateur bouts with headgear.

I'm not sure what the best theory is for explaining the discrepancy.

Possible theories:

  • Professional rules just incentivize knockouts more, so headgear is still bad
  • Professionals are just disproportionately better at knocking people out than defending, so headgear is still bad
  • False sense of security is the reason for brain damage, so if people are still as paranoid as before then headgear can still be good
  • Headgear decreases knockouts, but increases brain damage?

Any other ideas?

Aside: I happen to believe headgear is probably bad, but I have a theory that goes way beyond false sense of security or decreased vision: Increased torque/leverage where extensions on your head mimic the effect of getting hit in the chin. I never see anyone mention this but I think it's the main reason.

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    Can you provide references for those claims? Where is the evidence of those "two scientifically proven facts"? Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 13:36
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it invites discussions and it cannot be answered in its current form. Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 13:37
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    If this is true, it's more likely that if participants have headgear, it might make them feel they can go as hard as they want without hurting the other person. Without headgear, there is an implicit understanding that contact should be lighter. It behooves both participants to go easier. If one goes heavy, the other one does as well. Amateur bouts are more about point scoring, and professional bouts motivate people to go for the KO (with publicity and therefore money). Amateur bouts without headgear are there for demonstrating skill rather than just KO'ing opponents. Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 16:15
  • When you get hit more often without being knocked out or showing obvious signs of disorientation because there is some amount of cushion, this means that your risk of concussion and permanent brain damage is higher since the fight goes on. This seems quite intuitive to me. Of course, higher torque because of leverage and additional weight of your head that has to be compensated for with neck muscles may play an additional role, but only seems to be half of the story. Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 11:05
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    @pete If it is so easy to find the fact is true, then provide a link to a source that explains how/why.
    – mattm
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


Headgear prevents cuts, not concussions

The study of AIBA headgear in tournaments is useful to you. The story according to this paper is that headgear increases referee stoppages (paper's proxy for concussion) but is useful for preventing cuts.

Headgear was apparently designed for preventing cuts. From the introduction:

These head guards were never designed to protect from head injury but were designed to reduce the incidence of cuts.

In the abstract:

Both studies show that the number of stoppages due to head blows was significantly decreased without head guards. The studies also showed that there was a notable increase in cuts.

From the discussion section, it is apparent your torque idea is known:

It is hypothesized that head guards, by increasing the diameter and surface area of the head, will lead to increased rotational force and subsequent stoppage.

No contradiction

I see no inherent contradiction in your two facts (first is not confirmed, yet). You have two variables:

  1. headgear v. no headgear
  2. professional v. amateur

You are changing two variables in comparing amateurs with headgear to professionals without headgear. Whether a boxer is a professional simply matters more than whether they have headgear for the knockouts/stoppages. You seem to assume that headgear should be the dominant factor when declaring a contradiction.

It would be more perplexing if headgear had an opposite effect in professionals than in amateurs, but there is no evidence of that.

  • Thank you, so iiuc you're saying it's bullet point #2
    – pete
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 19:24

Possible explanations:

  1. Your source did not do a study
  2. Your source did not cite a study
  3. Your source's studies were not peer reviewed
  4. Your sources compared different styles and rules
  5. Your sources referenced studies done in different time periods, between which the understanding of head injury had changed
  6. You misinterpreted the source(s)
  7. Your source misinterpreted the study
  8. The study was biased
  9. The source was biased
  10. The source was incompetent
  11. The study was incompetent
  12. You are incompetent (or rather, you do not possess the skills to interpret the study's or source's findings)

Not directly relevant to your question, but as you can see, there is a strong relationship between you, your source, and your source's studies.

Without a study, then your source is an opinion - not a fact. If your source's study was not peer reviewed, then the study could be flawed through incomplete information, wrong assumptions, incorrect conclusion, improper environment...

If your studies were proper, but compared different styles, the conclusion could be that one style does not focus on the head shots as much as the other.

If your studies spanned a significant amount of time, the interpretation of "head injury" can be very different. What we know about concussions today is different than what we knew 2 years ago.

Maybe you didn't understand what the source was saying.

Maybe you didn't understand what the study's conclusions were all about.

Maybe the study was commissioned by someone with a financial stake in the eventual outcome, and purposefully discounted some observations while not taking into account others.

Maybe the source was similarly biased for the purpose of selling a product or showing a competing product was more dangerous.

Maybe the source and/or the study made wild scientific hypothesis, or discounted scientific testing methods, or maybe did not perform basic functions like properly calibrating devices used, or failed to eliminate (or acknowledge or understand) standards of deviation, or failed to repeat an observed test.

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