Banning Head Protection is Safer

by Dave Collins on April 5, 2017

in Psychology of Safety and Risk,Risk Aversion,Risk Homeostasis,Zero Harm



Banning Head Protection is Safer

imageSome may be aware that the National Boxing Championships are being conducted in Adelaide in April 2017. This is the first championship where protective headgear has been banned. This is in line with a global ban on protective headgear because it doesn’t protect heads (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2293803/Headgear-boxers-banned-bid-REDUCE-head-injuries.html).

New rules by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) has banned head gear because it causes harm. The ban applies from June 2017 in a bid to reduce head injuries. It turns out that protective gear is not protective, because of how it affects the thinking of those participating in the sport. Headgear changes the mindset of participants and research has shown that a lack of headgear actually reduces the risk of concussion. The AIBA announcement comes after new research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found there was ‘no good evidence that mouthguards and helmets ward off concussion’.

The naïve idea that ‘all protection protects’ totally ignores the social psychology of risk. Unless trade-offs, by-products and side-effects are considered then it will simply be ‘dumb down’ safety as usual. Hey, but dumb down is in vogue.

Dumb down drives the thinking of NSW Transport Toward Zero Campaign (http://www.towardszero.nsw.gov.au/ ). Don’t you just love the binary mindlessness of ‘what is an acceptable number of road fatalities?’ What a crazy question, like asking someone: are you a sexual predator? Or, are you a terrorist? What is a suitable number of paedophile offences?

Here we are with dumb down at its best pushing the binary nonsense of numerics as a measure of safety (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHD1qF6mbww ). Here we are with a dumb question seeking a number as a representation of something else. Super dumb. This stands in contradiction to the rest of the campaign that focuses on people and decision making but hey, lets sum up safety with a number – zero. To cap off the campaign in dumb, the same chase for zero is contradicted by other messages about mistakes others make and the inevitability of accidents?

Dumb down also drives the Dumb Ways to Drive Campaign by Melbourne Metro. How does one justify the spending on this campaign and its supposed success? By the volume of Internet hits! (https://www.safetyrisk.net/dumb-ways-to-die-and-a-strange-sense-of-success/) How bizarre. The same logic makes all kinds of unethical Internet practices ‘successful’. Since when did Internet hits make the rail corridor safer? Since when did using a cartoon of characters committing suicide and calling them ‘dumb’ become a smart way of creating safety in the rail corridor? What simplistic nonsense. I wonder how long it will take for Melbourne Metro to overcome their sunk cost and like Hazardman (https://www.safetyrisk.net/hazardman-disappears/ ), let this dumb down approach to safety disappear into the history of dumb?

Could it be that risk homeostasis is true, protective headgear doesn’t protect? (I wonder if zero harmers watch boxing or other sports of harm (football) for entertainment?) Could it be that slogans of ‘toward zero’ actually prime the population to take greater risks? Will NSW Transport pull their campaign if their numbers go up? Or will they now have to play with the numbers to prove the success of their numerics? Could it be that insulting suicidal ideation as ‘dumb’ is in itself dumb!

Wouldn’t it be good if Safety could get past this quest for dumb? Wouldn’t it be good if Safety was known for those who were intelligent and sophisticated about risk? It’s not likely that we will see any change to dumb until there is reform of the WHS curriculum (https://www.safetyrisk.net/isnt-it-time-we-reformed-the-whs-curriculum/ ), which won’t be soon.

  • Hayden Collins

    It will be interesting to see how this affects the sport. Now that the headgear is gone, surely the fighting styles and techniques will have to be modified to suit. I know that in the NFL, the use of helmets has resulted in a more aggressive tackling technique, where they utilise their helmets as a “weapon” to take down their opponent. Could the sport of amateur boxing become more defensive and “boring” to watch?

    • Rob long

      Same with bike helmets in Europe, but NSW transport and the regulator are about 10 years behind on that one too.

  • Rob Long

    Means to write ‘dumb ways to die’ but the typo actually makes more sense given the nature of the binary mindset of Transport NSW.

    • Dave Collins

      Sorry rob – I missed that but agree it fits

    • Dave Collins

      Sorry rob – I missed that but agree it fits

      • Hayden Collins

        Hopefully they don’t read this or we might be seeing monsters suiciding in cars soon…

Previous post:

Next post: