The phrase "punch drunk" comes from the condition that many boxers find themselves in after years of fighting. Repeated blows to the head can lead to multiple concussions over a lifetime, resulting in mental health conditions such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Brain injuries are just one of the many injuries that the body can suffer from boxing, signaling to many a reason not to step in the ring.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Boxing, football and hockey are among the sports in which repeated concussions are normal. The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy was created in 2008 specifically to study chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is a condition found in athletes, including boxers, as the result of multiple brain trauma. Tissue within the brain degenerates, leading to behaviors and symptoms closely mirroring dementia, as well as aggressive and manic tendencies.
Other Brain Injuries
A team of researchers at the Central and Eastern Clinical School in Melbourne, Australia, cited the lack of injury rates as the reason for their 2006 review of boxing injuries. The team's study, published in the August 2006 edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that of the 47 boxers studied, 21 injuries were logged at a rate of two injuries per 1,000 hours of boxing. Seventy-one percent of the injuries were related to the head, with concussions counting for one-third of that tally.
Eye Injuries or Blindness
Look at a boxer's face after a bout and at least one of his eyes is likely to be bruised or swollen. In a presentation to the International Boxing Association, French opthamologist Jean-Louis Llouquet wrote that eye damage can result from direct blows or "indirect shock" from a punch. Resulting injuries can include eye and eye socket fractures, ruptured tear ducts, bleeding in the neuro-muscular cone, cataracts or retinal detachment.
The intent of boxing is to punch your opponent and knock him unconscious. The physical effects of the sport have brought into question its morality. George Lundberg, former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, has continually advocated for an outright ban of boxing. Interviewed in 2005 by the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, Lundberg said that intentionally knocking another person out and inflicting brain damage is morally wrong.
- Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy: What Is CTE?
- "British Journal of Sports Medicine"; A prospective cohort study of injury in amateur and professional boxing; T. Zazryn, et al.; August 2006
- International Boxing Association; Eye Injuries In Boxing; Jean-Louis Llouquet; July 20, 2007
- "The Courier-Journal"; Push for Ban on Boxing is Still Hotly dDebated; Jim Adams; June 13, 2005