Mixed martial arts demands intense physical contact.
Unless you train for fun, at one point in your career you’ll have to decide whether or not should you wear headgear in MMA training.
Eating strong punches, kicks, knees, or elbows to your head might leave lifetime consequences to your health. If you must bleed inside the Octagon, it doesn’t mean you’ll have to return home bruised and battered after every training session.
But what are the pros and cons of wearing headgear? Will more protection reduce your vision and lead to potential other problems in your workout?
Keep reading on and we’ll break down everything you need to know.
What is MMA Headgear?
I bet you’ve noticed many Octagon warriors wearing head protection in the sparring sessions. Padded helmets, also known as “headgear”, are a mandatory part of training (and competitive equipment in amateur competitions) that serves to protect your head and brain from unnecessary damage.
There are different types of MMA headgear. Some helmets come with additional layers of protection on the outside, while others remind you of a cage and protect your whole face. Head protection will save you from unnecessary cuts and bruises, but the next paragraph explains how efficient it is against concussions and hard hits.
Does MMA Headgear Prevent Concussions?
Well, yes and no. While it gives you a pretty decent bruise/swelling protection, MMA headgear might not be so perfect against concussions.
Research by Anne Tjønndal et al (2022) was unable to confirm that boxing without protective headgear is safer than the same martial art with a head protector. It was confirmed that headgear decreases the number of facial cuts and skull fractures and also provides some level of protection against linear impacts to your head.
But the protective effects of headgear against concussion are uncertain, according to this research. It seems it depends on the model.
So we’ll transition to research from McIntosh, and Patton (2015), which speaks about the impact performance of head guards for combat sports.
Seven different head guards were tested in this research, and two of them were AIBA (Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur) models. The impact tests showed the benefits of performance testing in identifying differences between head guard models – it alludes that the head protection level depends on the model you chose. But more research is required in the future for more precise answers.
To summarise, it’s safe to say that headgear most definitely protects the wearer from superficial cuts and bruises, whereas the level of protection from head trauma is uncertain.
Benefits of Wearing Headgear When MMA Training
Wearing the best MMA headgear brings many many positives. We’ll analyze each of them and explain why this training item could be a good choice.
Fewer Cuts And Bruises
It’s very hard to cut an opponent who wears headgear unless you hit under his eye. Yes, you can break his nose or orbital bone, but there will be fewer cuts above his eyebrows and at the level of his temples.
Also, there are fewer chances of leaving your training session bruised. The lateral area of your head is most vulnerable to bruising, and your headgear protects it. This is great if walking around with a bruised face doesn’t quite fit into your daily routine.
Sense Of Security
Newcomers will often feel more confident in the sparring session when wearing MMA headgear. They will be more willing to trade big bombs, and it will help them to get over the fear of getting hit and battered.
While this could be seen as a false sense of security, it does help new fighters feel more at ease and looser when training. Just remember, wearing headgear in training doesn’t make you invincible.
Head Clash Protection
There have been many no contests in professional MMA due to head clashes. For example, look at the fight between Bobby Green and Jared Gordon. An unintentional foul led to a no-contest and 50k less for Bobby Green! The same thing happened in the fight between Chris Curtis and Nassourdine Imavov.
Also, I suggest you re-watch the bout between Denys Bondar and Carlos Hernandez. It looked like a flush TKO win, but you can see that Hernandez accidentally headbutted Bondar while trying to take him down.
Head clashes are illegal for a reason – you can easily cut or KO your opponent, especially if both you and your sparring partner prefer fighting inside the pocket.
You can easily hit your foe’s head when ducking, slipping, or going for a takedown. There will be fewer cuts and deep stitches as a high-quality piece of MMA headgear protects the forehead!
Some Knockout Protection
You can get knocked out with a headgear, especially if you get hit by a powerful strike. But if you survive a face-plant KO, you’ll have zero control of your body. When you wear MMA headgear, you will decrease the risk of additional damage when falling down the canvas.
Drawbacks of Wearing MMA Headgear When Training
MMA headgear is good, but it might not be perfect in every situation. There are cons too.
Your vision is significantly reduced, which makes hooks and overhands harder to see. Also, a good high kicker might turn the lights out on you as it’ll be way harder to anticipate the path of his leg. Fortunately, there are different types of headgear that offer varying levels of unimpeded vision.
Questionable Concussion Protection
The pieces of evidence aren’t clear yet. Some scientific articles claim headgear increases the level of protection against concussions, while others say the opposite. Your brain swooshes in your skull every time you eat a shot, but you are better protected from superficial cuts.
The thick layers of padding increase the surface of your head. Your head becomes thicker due to padding on the sides – it gives your enemy a larger target to aim for. He’ll score points way easier.
You Will Be Willing To Trade More
A piece of MMA headgear helps newbies’ courage level. They will be willing to take part in more exchanges and feel less fear.
But here’s the problem – the brain still has to deal with the traumas of getting hit after training sessions even though there aren’t any visible marks on fighters’ faces. This could be critical for the Octagon warrior’s long-term MMA career and health.
Should You Wear Headgear When MMA Training: Final Thoughts
MMA headgear will protect you from cuts, scraps, and bruises; but don’t expect too much against concussions or traumatic head injuries. If you take a big kick or punch to the head, your brain will still swoosh in your skull, and you’ll face the consequences sooner or later.
So, should you use headgear when MMA training? Well, this really comes down to personal preference.
Would you like to sacrifice vision for bravery and more toe-to-toe exchanges? Do you want to feel safer when you spar? Do the way you want, but keep one thing in mind – nothing protects you against head traumas in the later stages of your life!