Taekwondo head injuries can put your training on hold. A concussion can keep you from working and have symptoms that plague you for weeks or months. The best thing you can do for a concussion is to keep yourself from getting one. Here are 10 time-tested ways to keep your noggin safe while sparring:
1. Block Correctly
The number one way to prevent Taekwondo head injuries — or any other martial art — is to put the techniques you’ve learned in class into practice when sparring. Taekwondo features a varied arsenal of blocks designed to protect you from all types and punches and kicks. If you’ve practiced them you should have no problem stopping anything that may come flying at your head.
2. Practice Breakfalls
If you’re like most fighters, breakfalls are not your favorite thing. Though falling is never all that much fun, learning to fall correctly and practicing can help you prevent Taekwondo head injuries when you fall for real. Tuck your chin as you fall. This will prevent your head from bouncing on the ground. Your arms should be at a 45 degree angle away from your body to disperse the impact.
3. Invest in Good Headgear
Not all headgear is created equal. Some manufacturers are targeting MMA dilettantes and selling the cheap stuff. That’s fine if you’re going to go to two classes and then quit. If you’re planning on competing, however, you have to invest in something that’s actually going to protect you. Good headgear is durable but light and does not obstruct your peripheral vision. The best headgear is leather on the outside and suede on the inside. Brightly-colored headgear made from shiny foam is the worst — this is from personal experience. I ate a punch to the head that made my gear go spinning around. I decided then that I was done with it for good.
4. Wear a Mouthguard
Mouthguards do more than ensure that your smile stays pretty. They help absorb the impact of a punch to the face and help your head and neck remain stable, reducing the chances that you’ll experience a concussion or other Taekwondo head injuries. Buy a high-quality mouthguard and bring it with you to the dojang every time.
5. Practice Forward Rolls
Practicing forward rolls is another not-so-favorite but necessary techniques. If athletes could get away with it, they’d never do them. They are important for preventing Taekwondo head injuries, though. If someone shoves you from behind, you can simply roll over your shoulder and spring to your feet instead of smacking your head on the ground.
6. Don’t Spar With Idiots
Unfortunately, the world of martial arts does attract an undesirable element. Some people come to Taekwondo or Krav Maga or Jiu-jitsu because they want to prove how tough they are. They usually don’t last long, but that doesn’t mean they don’t often manage to do damage before they disappear. If a moron with a puffed-up chest saunters into your dojang, it’s completely acceptable for you to excuse yourself. If someone tells you otherwise, find a new dojang.
7. Ensure You And Your Partner Are Both Comfortable With the Level of Intensity Before Sparring
In my gym, we agree to a level of contact before we begin sparring. That way, if someone hits too hard, you can tell them to dial it back before the round starts. During any given round, intensity often increases, so it’s a good idea to find a level of contact that you’re comfortable with and ask your partner to go lighter. This practice is by no means foolproof, but it can help prevent Taekwondo head injuries.
8. Avoid Sparring With Anyone Who Makes You Uncomfortable
This may seem like a repeat of #6, but it is a little different. After all, someone doesn’t have to be an idiot to make you uncomfortable. The bottom line is this: any time your inner voice says “I don’t want to spar with this person” it’s ok to bow out. If you’re training for the Olympics or have your sights set on Holly Holm, that’s another story.
9. Stop if You Feel Symptoms of a Concussion
Any time you feel symptoms of what could be a severe Taekwondo head injury, stop immediately. Symptoms include headache, blackout or fatigue, amnesia, nausea, vomiting, and mild depression. If you do get hurt, seek professional help as soon as possible. Elite sports therapy like Whole Body Cryotherapy can help you recover from your injury more quickly.
10. Make Sure Your Partners Are Using Quality Gear
Your sparring partners should be using quality gear too. Quality gloves protect you from Taekwondo head injuries just as much as they protect your partner’s knuckles. Moreover, one of the tenets of Taekwondo is courtesy. What could be more courteous than making sure your sparring partner is safe from Taekwondo head injuries, too?
Boxingglovesreviews.com: Top 10 Headgear for Hard Sparring
Mayo Clinic: Concussion Symptoms