When the world sanctioning body for amateur boxing, AIBA, introduced mandatory headguards in 1984 it had little impact on the statistics: Head injuries were not being reduced by significant numbers. As expected, because the head guards used for competition between 1984 and 1988 were old school protectors with very little padding unable to protect fighters from injury. This changed in 1988 when a German invention was approved for AIBA competition: The Top Ten head guard. With its inception during the 1988 World Championships in Moscow and later with many fighters using them at the Olympic Games and in National Championships the amount of head injuries received significant reductions. So much that the International Olympic Committee no longer kept up their threat to bann boxing from the Olympic Games.

White Top Ten head guard

Fighting scene from the German amateur boxing championships in 1995.

What difference did the Top Ten head guard make for the sport of comptetitive amateur boxing? It not just reduced facial injuries, but knockouts. Due to its history as being a kickboxing headgear it protected fighters who were knocked down from serious head and brain injuries while banging their heads on the ground after a fall. It made amateur boxing more attractive because fighters became more aggressive in their fighting style. The headgear would not slide off and not disctract fighters from their actual activity. The introduction of the Top Ten headgear was met with heavy resistance from the large manufacturers of safety gear. Production of the headguard was just too expensive to them as they were more interested in profits as in safety of athletes. It took decades until they finally started to clone and copy Top Ten headguards.

In 2013 AIBA and IOC made the decision to remove the mandatory use of headgear for elite men while juniors and women are still allowed to use to protect their head. The decision was widely criticized by the medical community and many sports enthusiasts. The decision happened at a time when rampant corruption among leading officials was discovered and revealed. The president of the organization was later relieved of his duties. The decision of removing the headgear is still contested by leading experts and scientists. It is also worth quoting that AIBA made changes to its rules of headgear characteristics favouring cheaply produced gear to be homologated rather than encouraging producers to create new and innovative high-tech gear from sophisticated materials.

Categories: Competition

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