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Why should women boxers wear head guards?

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

As any boxer knows, head injuries are commonplace within boxing. With blows to the face and head, boxers are at high risk of concussion, but why do women still have to wear headguards at elite level competitions when our male counterparts do not? Unorthodoxx investigates the importance of headguards for women boxers.

There is a lot of controversy around head guards in boxing as a study from 2013 claimed it increases the risk of head injuries due to reduced field of vision and could mask symptoms. However, more recent evidence has emerged suggesting that head guards are a must have, especially for sparring and amateur bouts. This is particularly true for women. In the past two decades much more research has been focussed on the effect of injuries on women as more women have started taking part in high profile contact sports. New evidence shows that women are at a much greater risk of both sustaining a concussion and suffering symptoms for much longer than men. Awareness is incredibly important when head injuries are concerned, knowing how to reduce the risk and understanding the differences between men and women can greatly improve an athlete’s recovery.

How do concussions occur in boxing?

Concussion occurs when trauma to the head causes the brain to rebound off the skull. The trauma alters our brains neurological functions which throws off its usual signalling processes. As swelling can also occur this reduces blood flow to brain cells which can inhibit cognitive functions. The immediate symptoms of a concussion are dizziness, confusion and loss of consciousness. Symptoms that follow are nausea, headaches and mental confusion which can last for weeks or months. Research also suggests that repeated concussions can lead to long term problems which is why athletes in contact sports like boxing need to be extremely careful. Despite being so understood medically there has only recently been any investigation into the effects of concussion on women and the findings are shocking.

Are women boxers at greater risk of concussion?

Recent research suggests that women have an increased risk of sustaining a concussion as well as suffering more severe symptoms and a longer recovery period. Women are much more likely to have symptoms such as headache, mental fatigue, problems concentration and mood changes. A study of 266 adolescents from varying sports like American Football and Wrestling, showed that on average women took 76 days to recover from concussion symptoms whereas men took around 50. There have also been objective studies investigating the cognitive function of concussion sufferers which showed that women had slower reaction times when concussed compared to men. Further research is needed to pinpoint why this is the case, but some specialists argue that it could be that women have slimmer necks and as such a blow can cause more recoil. Understanding these differences in men and women when it comes to concussion is critical when seeking treatment as it can better streamline one’s recovery.

Headguards in amateur boxing

Headgear has also been recommended as a means of protection. A study by McIntosh and Patton showed that AIBA (Amateur International Boxing Association) approved head guards play an important role in reducing the risk of concussion and other superficial injuries. They found that headguards were also much more effective when a faster punch was sustained (roughly 5-9 metres per second). This combined with the research above clearly indicates that headguards should be a part of any boxer’s kit, particularly for women boxers wanting to keep themselves safe.

What types of headguards are available?

So how do you find the best headguard? When looking for headgear it is important to understand the different styles and specifications available as well as knowing how to get the right fit. There are three types of head guard, standard open face guards, Mexican style guards with cheek protection and bar guards which offer a more facial protection.

Open face guards are widely available and offer sufficient protection and the most amount of vision. These guards range in price starting from £30.00 which makes them a good choice for someone starting out.

Mexican style guards offer more facial protection to the cheek area and overall forehead and temple area . They are excellent if you are looking to avoid more superficial injuries. Some Mexican headguards are slightly more expensive as they are more specialised but are still accessible.

Lastly, bar guards (also called face savers) offer the most facial protection and are often worn by athletes who need to avoid broken noses and facial bruising. The only drawback is that they can significantly reduce visibility. They are much more expensive as they offer much more protection and start at around £60.00.

Unorthodoxx has selected the best aspects of each type of boxing headguard to create a bespoke design perfect for women. Created to provide support and protection to the cheek and temple areas and accompanied with a velcro chin strap and rear straps to easily adjust providing the ultimate protection for female boxers. Extremely lightweight and durable, Unorthodoxx headguards are made from our special layered foam padding and lined with soft fabric that is moisture wicking. View the Unorthodoxx headguard range here.

Find the perfect fit

When purchasing it is important to ensure that the headguard will fit correctly, measuring the circumference of the head will help ensure a snug fit. Likewise, it is good to think about the material of the guard and how that needs to be cared for. Some guards are machine washable whereas leather guards are best cleaned by hand, always check the product information.

Overall, concussion is something to seriously consider as a boxer and research has suggested that women face a much greater risk of complex and lasting symptoms. This should hopefully bring new awareness of these risks and perhaps better means to reduce them. But for now, get some good headgear and keep yourself safe.

About Unorthodoxx womens boxing gloves and clothing

Unorthodoxx is the UK’s first Women’s Boxing brand that has been created purely for women and has exclusively designed women’s boxing gloves and women’s boxing clothing. Our products and equipment are designed to offer the ultimate fit, protection and durability for female boxers and combat sports fighters. From novice beginners to elite competition Unorthodoxx fight gear offers the best women’s boxing gloves, clothing and equipment.

If you would like to join us on our journey, engage with our growing community and be a part of the Unorthodoxx story follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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