The purpose of the study was to analyse the effect of knuckle protection on the type and incidence of injuries in traditional karate contests. Knuckle protection was mandatory at the Danish karate championships 1983 and 1986 (290 matches, 0.26 injuries per match), and prohibited at the championships 1984 and 1985 (620 matches, 0.25 injuries per match). Head injuries were more common in the tournaments where fist pads were used. The incidences of transitory psychomotor disturbances following blows to the head were comparable. The severity of head injuries, however, decreased; minor head injuries dominated when fist pads were used (66%, compared with 44% without fist pads, p less than 0.01) and there were fewer lacerations and fractures. Injuries to the fingers or hands were also fewer--1.3% compared with 11% without protection (p less than 0.01). The use of fist pads reduced considerably the number of injuries requiring treatment (from 42% to 16%, p less than 0.01). In conclusion; fist pads offer some protection against injuries, especially to the hands, but additional measures are needed.
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