Is head-butting for real?

In this column, the soccer player Zidane’s headbutt to the chest was used as an example, but here’s a much better example. A sore-loser high school wrestler headbutts the ref in the side of the face, knocking him unconscious and doing serious damage. The wrestler himself appears unphased.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f4WfOY8PY8

Thanks, Shawnj72, and welcome to the Straight Dope.

It’s always useful and courteous to back up any assertion made on a column or a staff report by citing the article in question, in this case:

The key point of head-butting is surprise. It allows you to attack someone without raising your hands and indicating your aggressive intent. A head-butt against a surprised, soft, relaxed target is probably fairly safe and effective, as long as you don’t catch the forehead straight on.

You can see this in the videos. Zidane head-butted Materazzi in the chest. The wrestler in Shawn’s video caught the referee on the side of the head, and his neck muscles were weak against that angle of force.

In the movies I would guess that they do head-butts in the least effective position—straight-on, forehead-to-forehead—because it’s so ineffective and therefore safe for the recipient. It’s the same reason that Hollywood swordfighters swing their swords so that they’ll miss even if the target fails to block. Actors don’t like to get hurt.

Yep, but to stress the key point is the asymmetry of the action.
Even if you were braced for it, being headbutt on the bridge of the nose by someone striking with the top of their forehead is likely to cause injury.

There have been a number of previous threads, here is a recent one.

More to the point, I think: It looks cool, and establishes the head-butter as a badass who will try to win a fight at all costs.