A headbutt (French coup de boule) is a targeted strike with the head, typically (when intentional) involving the use of robust parts of the headbutter's cranium as the area of impact. The most effective headbutts strike the most sensitive areas of an opponent, such as the nose, using the stronger bones in the forehead (frontal bone) or the back of the skull (occipital or parietal bone). It can be considered a quick, very effective but risky maneuver, as a misplaced strike can cause greater injury to the person delivering the headbutt than to the person receiving it. A headbutt does not have to be against another person's head, although this is usually the nearest and easiest target.
From French botter = "to kick". Rams are well known for butting with their heads and horns. From this the terms battering ram and hydraulic ram are derived. Many males in various animal species employ butting during courtship.
Headbutts can be used from close range such as from the clinch, or on the ground. They are typically applied to the head of the opponent, since the head is often a readily available target and has several sensitive areas. An effective headbutt can be performed with a forward, rising, sideways or backwards motion; each being effective from different positions.
Parts of the cranium with thick bone and high local curvature make for good weapon areas, and these include the forehead near the hairline, the outboard curved part of the parietal bone, and the occiput. Ideal targets are usually the fragile areas of the head, including the bridge of the nose, the cheekbones, the hinge area of the jaw, the temple, and the top edge of the eye socket.
Hitting the opponent's teeth or mouth is likely to cause mutual damage. The chin of the enemy is also a generally bad position to headbutt unless striking from below up into the bottom of the chin, similar to an uppercut.
Headbutts are generally forbidden in most contact sports and, if performed, result in penalties and even disqualifications. However, it is a strike allowed in krav maga, lethwei, muay boran, capoeira, combat sambo and some full-contact karate rulesets. Similarly, although the art itself forbids any kind of strikes, some masters of judo taught the use of headbutts under the name of atama ate waza, as demonstrated by Kyuzo Mifune and Mikinosuke Kawaishi. It is also the primary focus of Eritrean martial art Testa.
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In April 1994, Scottish forward Duncan Ferguson, then of Rangers, received a three-month prison sentence (for being convicted of assault) after headbutting John McStay during a Scottish Premier Division match between the Rangers and Raith Rovers at Ibrox Stadium.
In the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Mark van Bommel was headbutted, this time by Luís Figo in the Portugal vs. Netherlands second round match. However, Figo received only a yellow card for this offense. In the final match against Italy, after an altercation between Frenchman Zinedine Zidane and Italian Marco Materazzi, Zidane headbutted the Italian in the chest, for which he received a red card and a subsequent three-match ban. Since Zidane was planning to retire after the World Cup, he was instead required to serve three days of community service.
In the 2010 African Cup of Nations, referee Coffi Codjia was suspended indefinitely by the Confederation of African Football after failing to award a red card to Algerian goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi, who headbutted him during an argument.
During an English Premier League match between Newcastle United and Hull City on 1 March 2014, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew collided with Hull's David Meyler when the latter attempted to retrieve the ball for a throw-in. Pardew proceeded to headbutt Meyler and was immediately sent off. The next day, Newcastle fined Pardew £100,000, and on 3 March, The FA announced it had formally charged Pardew with improper conduct, which ultimately led to a Premier League record seven match ban.
Headbutting is not allowed in ice hockey. In the National Hockey League even an unsuccessful attempt at headbutting warrants a double minor. An actual headbutt is a major penalty and a game misconduct, and a match penalty is mandatory if an injury results.
On March 3, 2014 Milena Knežević headbutted Anita Görbicz during the last seconds of the game between ŽRK Budućnost and Győri ETO KC in the EHF Women's Champions League group stage. Knežević was banned for the next two matches.
On April 9, 2017, Japanese wrestler Katsuyori Shibata headbutted Kazuchika Okada during their match at Sakura Genesis 2017, the headbutt was so hard that it caused Shibata to start bleeding from the forehead. After the match, Shibata collapsed backstage, from where he was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a subdural hematoma.
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