Should Canadian amateur boxers wear head protection during all matches?
A new study finds that an overwhelming majority within Canada’s amateur boxing community supports the use of headguards for all levels of competition, a position that stands opposed to current rulings of Boxing Canada and the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA), both of which prohibit the use of headguards in elite competition.
The study, published in the journal Sports Medicine, open polled members of Canada’s boxing community to find out their views on the use of headguards during competition, and of the 636 responses received 71.5 per cent of Canadian respondents believed that headguards should be mandatory at all levels.
“The consensus of the Canadian boxing community largely opposes the rule changes that the AIBA has implemented,” say the study’s authors.
In addition, the study argues that contrary to the AIBA’s position, the use of headguards in boxing has been well documented as the safer alternative, pointing to voluminous research showing that boxing headguards reduce the rate of concussion.
“With concussion-related injury at the forefront of discussion and the opinion of the Canadian amateur boxing community strongly in favour of using headgear, there is currently little justification or evidence-based research to support the removal of headgear in amateur boxing,” say the study’s authors.
While boxing coaches, officials, physicians, retired boxers and parents in Canada all stood largely in support of headguards, the one holdout group in the study turned out to be active boxers themselves, who polled at 58.4 per cent in favour of headguards, still a majority response but significantly lower than other groups. Researchers postulated that the pressure to conform to the status quo in order to continue competing may have had an influence on active boxers’ thoughts on the matter.
The current position of Boxing Canada is that, following the AIBA’s regulations, headguards are not allowed in elite men’s competition but that for all other levels of boxing headguards are required. Boxing Canada classifies elite boxers as those between the ages of 19 and 40 who have fought in at least 10 matches.
The AIBA adopted its new position on headguards in 2013 along with other changes that effectively placed amateur boxing more in line with the professional version of the sport, with many speculating that the move was aimed at drawing in a wider audience to amateur boxing as well as at making it more attractive to young boxers hoping to carve out a professional career in the ring. The upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will be the first to feature boxers without headguards since the 1980 Moscow games in the Soviet Union.
The AIBA recently announced that it will begin internal discussions on whether to allow professional boxers to compete this summer at the Rio games. The decision won’t be made until a congress meeting in May, but in speaking with Reuters, AIBA president Ching-Kuo Wu expressed his confidence in the proposed change. “Professional boxers will be at Rio. I don’t know how many but they will be, but they will have to go through the same procedures as everyone else. What AIBA wants to do is open the door for professionals. Boxing is probably the only sport in the Olympics not represented by pros.”