War for the Sport of Boxing: Me vs. Pediatricians and Other MDs Criticizing It

Vitali SCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2011

MOBILE, AL - AUGUST 05:  A general view of the ring prior to the 2012 U.S. Men's Boxing Olympic Team Trials at the Mobile Civic Center on August 5, 2011 in Mobile, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

"The bottom line is, boxing is violent.” – Dr. Danelle Fisher 

I am not entirely sure when boxing became an official sport instead of a way to settle aggressive debates, but I am fairly confident that it must have been a very long time ago, being one of oldest sports in history dating back to 688 BC

There are way too many people who perceive boxing as a brutal, nasty sport fitting for social outcasts and aggressive delinquents.

It sure looks that way when you think about it: two men are trained to hit each other in the head and body, with hopes of hurting the other one to the point of a knockout.

Inflicting serious damage to your opponent seems to be the main point in a boxing match when watching it on television without any education about the sport and its roots. People hear about brain injuries and deaths in the ring on a regular basis, with young fighters dying from brain bleeding and other serious damage. 

But is boxing really that bad? Is football for instance, a much safer sport? I am aware that I will likely get a colossal amount of criticism for this comparison, but I just couldn’t resist. Injuries ranging from mild to severe happen in football a lot more often than in boxing and that’s not debatable. What about kickboxing? Karate? MMA? 

Any contact sport will have its obvious hazards, but that doesn’t mean it is focused on molding aggressive personalities and damaged outcomes. Haven’t you ever heard boxing being labeled as “the art of boxing?” There is a very good reason for labeling boxing as a form of art, and with a little historical education, curiosity and maybe even a few lessons, people would realize just how beautiful, intricate, demanding as well as rewarding this sport really is. Those people who go boxing for fitness are generally in great shape, both physically and mentally. 

LAS VEGAS - MAY 02:  Ricky Hatton of England lays on the mat as referee Kenny Bayless calls the fight after Hatton was knocked out by Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines during their junior welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena May 2, 2009
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

At this point in time, you may be asking yourself, “Where is this guy going with all this?” Well, let me point you to an article from the Los Angeles Times, where a few health professionals argue that boxing is not a good place to send your kids for exercise as it has too much potential to cause early brain damage: 

After reading this piece, I felt that many people will be cheated by its content and direction. 

"Pediatricians should strongly discourage boxing participation among their patients and guide them toward alternative sport and recreational activities that do not encourage intentional head injuries," co-authors Laura Purcell and Claire LeBlanc, both doctors affiliated with the Canadian Pediatric Society, wrote in the journal Pediatrics

While arguing that boxing is a dangerous sport, the main benefit the article proposes is that this very same violent sport can prevent troubled kids from progressing in the wrong direction. 

Boxing requires a lot of discipline, patience, and respect for yourself as well as others. Punching others in the head, while being part of a boxing match, is not what kids are being trained to do. There is a great and humble benefit to boxing, but unfortunately it is quite invisible to people that have never been active participants of it. The self esteem boost and the elevated confidence that kids get from training, is worth much more than even the physical benefit of the sport.     

As always, there are opposing views to just about every statement ever made, and while most people pick a side, many times both can be right or wrong at the same time. 

So is saying that boxing is one of the most dangerous sports, a conclusive and widely accepted statement? 

Not according to National Safety Council: “A 1996 National Safety Council accident report ranked amateur boxing 23rd on its list of injury-producing sports and rated it the safest of all contact sports…safer than football, wrestling, soccer, gymnastics and in-line skating.”  

Boxing is 23rd on the list. But what does that really mean when talking in terms of the actual damage sustained in the amateur boxing world? 

“Johns Hopkins studied over 500 active amateur boxers from six different cities, all of similar ages, social backgrounds, educational levels and lifestyle habits, comparing their neurological functions with those of non-boxers. To date, it is most thoroughly organized medical study on amateur boxing. Its findings were issued in 1994 and the results were conclusive. Although there was some indication of temporary memory loss immediately following bouts which dissipated shortly thereafter, the study found no clinically-significant evidence of permanent impairment of motor skills, loss of coordination or memory or slurred speech among the active amateur boxers. There was no measurable damage sustained to the neurological system found in the seven-year study.” A nine-year study by an Australian physical showed the same conclusive outcome. 

While this is good news for those who believe that boxing is a big no-no for kids, it doesn’t mean that boxing, or any contact sport for that matter, is an entirely safe outlet: “Researchers examined boxing injuries among people 6 and older and found an average of 8,700 boxing injuries were treated in emergency rooms annually; of those, approximately 2,500 were among children 6-17 years old. Throughout the course of the 19-year study, the number of boxing injuries increased 211 percent—from 5,361 in 1990 to nearly 17,000 in 2008. The most common injuries were fractures, which occurred most often to the hand (33 percent), followed by the head and neck (23 percent).” - NSC 

Participation in boxing, according to SGMA Sports Industries, has significantly increased: “On a macro level, figures from SGMA Research indicate the participation rates of boxing and kickboxing have increased 6.4 percent and 20.1 percent, respectively, between 2008 and 2009.” 

Most importantly, if you notice in the link provided above, boxing and stress relief are closely related. “According to industry experts, boxing and kickboxing have become the preferred methods to release frustrations and alleviate anger among exercise participants.”

I don’t want to go into the possible symptoms and conditions that high levels of stress can trigger, because I am confident most people are well aware of them. 

Sure, boxing is a dangerous sport, but that’s how sports are. Unless playing chess can burn tons of calories and benefit health in improving the cardiovascular system as well as all other body functions, I would suggest that playing sports is the best way to grow and progress for kids and adults alike.


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