Padded headgear, boxing gloves lower linear impact force but not rotational

The use of padded headgear and gloves reduces the impact fighters absorb from hits to the head, according to recently published research from Cleveland Clinic — but further equipment development is needed to help lessen rotational impact forces.

“There is ample medical literature that points to rotational impacts as being key contributors to head and neck injuries,” study author Adam Bartsch, PhD, stated in a Cleveland Clinic news release. “However, padding used for boxing and mixed martial arts are still designed to primarily reduce linear — not rotational — acceleration. More work is needed to develop better protective padding to minimize both linear and rotational forces.”

According to a Cleveland Clinic news release, researchers replicated 54 hook punches to the head using a crash test dummy and a pendulum. The impact forces were measured under five padding configurations: without headgear or boxing gloves, with headgear and boxing gloves, with headgear but without boxing gloves, with boxing gloves but without headgear, and with mixed martial arts-style gloves but without headgear.

The findings, published online in the Journal of Neurosurgery, measured both linear and rotational impacts with a total of 17 injury risk parameters.

According to the study abstract, the researchers found all padding conditions reduced linear impact dosage but failed to lessen rotational impact forces. Boxing gloves plus headgear resulted in the most meaningful reduction in injury parameters. Significant reduction in linear impact dosage, the authors noted in the abstract, still did not eliminate the risk of brain strain injury.


  • Bartsch AJ, Benzel EC, Miele VJ, et al. Boxing and mixed martial arts: preliminary traumatic neuromechanical injury risk analyses from laboratory impact dosage data. J Neurosurg. 2012. Published online Feb. 7. doi: 10.3171/2011.12.JNS111478

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