Boxing has long been a popular sport. Today, boxing champions remain prominent celebrities and tens of thousands of fans crowd arenas or watch boxing matches on television. However, there are a number of serious health risks involved with boxing. These risks have led a number of medical associations to express concern about the sport's safety.
Like all combat sports, boxing can lead to minor injuries. Cuts are so common that they are often treated at ringside to prevent blood from cuts interfering with the fighter's vision. Injuries to the jaw and teeth are also known, although boxers wear mouthguards to limit the risk of this type of injury. Minor injuries to the hands are also common. Most boxers wear boxing gloves to reduce the risk of damage to the hands, but injuries do still occur, particularly in training.
In addition to superficial cuts and bruises, boxing can also cause more serious injury. Body blows can lead to fractured ribs and internal bleeding. Fractures to the bones of the hands can have serious long-term consequences if not treated properly, while eye injuries can lead to loss of vision. Amateur boxers wear protective headgear that can limit the risk of this type of head injury, but there is evidence that protective headgear does little to reduce the likelihood of the most severe form of boxing injury, brain damage.
A 2000 article in the "Western Journal of Medicine" stated the case simply: "Human anatomy is at odds with the preferred tactic in boxing, which is to strike the opponent's head." Blows to the head can cause serious injuries, including catastrophic brain damage, which manifests as the result of a single impact, and gradual brain damage, which builds up over time. Brain damage resulting from boxing can cause slurred speech, impaired reflexes, blackouts and even, in rare cases, death.
Medical Opposition to Boxing
The British, American, Canadian and Australian Medical Associations have all called for an end to boxing, citing the high risk of brain damage and other injuries. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that boxing is an unsuitable sport for young athletes. Defenders of boxing assert that death rates from boxing-related injuries are low and that fighters are aware of the health risks involved. Sportswriter Harry Mullan has argued that improved medical care and awareness of safety procedures, rather than an all-out ban, are needed.
- International Boxing Association; Injuries of the Hand and Wrist; Derya Dincer, M.D.; May 2007
- American Academy of Pediatrics; Boxing Participation by Children and Adolescents; September 2011
- "Western Journal of Medicine"; Sport Medicine and the Ethics of Boxing; Suzanne Leclerc, et al.; June 2000
- British Medical Association; Boxing; June 2008
- American Academy of Neurology; Does Amateur Boxing Cause Brain Damage?; May 2007
- "The Independent"; Boxing — The Risk We Take Is the Price We Have to Pay and We Budget for It; Harry Mullan, et al.; May 1994