Boxing Safety

Amateur boxing is not only highly regulated, but it’s deemed the safest of all contact sports according to ROSPA [Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents] and the NSC [National Safety Council]. Considered to be safer and result in fewer injuries as compared to that of high school football, wrestling, soccer, hockey, rugby etc., amateur boxing rates as the 75th least dangerous sport out of 100 in the ROSPA table, while according to a 1996 NSC accident report it ranks 23rd on its list of injury-producing sports.

ROSPA and the NSC would further determine amateur boxing to have much lower incidences of injuries in comparison to that of gymnastics, in-line skating, equestrian, motorcycle racing, scuba and or sky-diving, and mountaineering amongst other such activities.

As regards fatalities, amateur boxing’s fatality rate is according to Cantu-Boxing and Medicine, Human Kinetics, Illinois 1995, 1.3 fatalities per 100,000 participants. Compare this to fatality rates for college football [3], scuba diving [11], mountaineering [51], and skydiving [123].

When boxers do suffer injuries they tend to be hand and wrist injuries, bloody noses, oral or facial lacerations, and bruised ribs. Broken noses and ribs do occur but are not common, and rarely have permanent consequences.

Safety Studies

Repetitive concussive injury [Punch Drunk Syndrome] in boxing is suspected as a cause of brain dysfunction, of which condition is well documented amongst some professional boxers. Concerned about the issue, USA Boxing in 1986 requested that the USOC fund a study related to this problem for which the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes were enlisted.

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 to those of non-boxers. To date, it is the most thoroughly organized medical study on amateur boxing of which conclusive findings were issued in 1994.

Those findings indicated that although some temporary memory loss immediately following bouts ensued, to shortly dissipate thereafter, no clinically significant evidence of permanent impairment of motor skills, loss of coordination or memory, or slurred speech would be detected among active amateur boxers. In fact, the neurological system according to the seven-year analysis would sustain no measurable damage whatsoever .

To further corroborate the above, Australian physician Mark Porter would independent of Johns Hopkins similarly conclude no difference in neurological function had existed between these two groups. This after conducting an exhaustive nine-year study.

Safety Precautions

Boxing due to injuries and deaths occurring in the professional ranks has an image problem. Add to this pro boxing’s negative depiction in the news and entertainment media and from a public perspective the sport seems somewhat of a mockery if not debacle.

Amateur boxing however would not exist if youth were being seriously injured so that to ensure its survival, rules were developed to protect its participants. Listed below, these rules differ markedly in comparison to that of professional boxing.

(1) Amateurs box 3 and 4 round bouts. Professionals box anywhere from 4 to 12 rounds. The longer a bout goes the more likely the occurrence of an injury whether due to the nature of competition itself, or whether due to other factors such as fatigue.

(2) Amateurs use 10 and 12 ounce shock-absorbing gloves. Pros use 6 and 8 ounce shock-transmitting gloves. The force of a blow is not only directly related to a glove’s size, but as well to its content or material make-up. That being the case, USA Boxing out of concerns for safety has stringent regulations in place requiring gloves adhere to certain standards or criteria before use is approved.

In the professional ranks a more prominent fighter, and or the promoter of that fighter, are usually in a position to dictate which gloves are to be worn by the principal, as well as their counterpart. That’s to say whether a less padded punchers type glove to inflict damage or a more padded glove for hand protection this circumstance is meant to work to the principal’s advantage, and or prove detrimental to his or her adversary with safety at times a secondary concern.

(3) Amateurs wear headgear for protection. Professionals wear no headgear. Designed to protect ears, forehead, and cheekbones, amateur contestants, except in the Elite men’s category as per recent rule change, are required to under all circumstances wear headgear.

Headgear is prohibited at the pro level so that prizefighters are more prone to suffer cuts, bruises, broken facial bones, and more.

(4) Amateurs wear jerseys during bouts. Professionals go topless. Amateurs wear jerseys to prevent gloves from transferring sweat to an opponents eyes.

Pros have no such provision so that boxers may become temporarily blinded from the transfer of sweat which from time to time contains legal substances applied to cuts or lacerations in between rounds.

(5) Referees in amateur bouts worldwide make liberal use of the “standing-eight-count.” This rule within the professional ranks lacks uniformity. Specifically implemented for protection, the standing-eight-count gives the referee time to assess the ability of an amateur boxer to defend his or herself after a hit or knockdown, with up to 3 standing-eights to be administered without the bout being stopped [unless in the same round]. Referees also have the power to stop an amateur bout any time they feel a boxer is over-matched, this before an athlete gets injured.

Although there are standing-8-counts administered during pro bouts, this rule is not uniform, to in certain locals be non-existent. Add to this the fact that some referee’s are more prone to give professional boxers additional chances due to monied interests, and even though combatants may appear just as defenseless, bouts may linger so as to put athletes in jeopardy.

(6) Medical exams are required of both amateur as well as professional boxers, with amateurs more likely to receive suspensions than are pros for similar or identical injuries. Licensed physicians performing exams on amateur boxers both before and after each bout have the right to restrict these boxers, i.e. prevent them from sparring or competing for 30, 60, 90, or even 180 days following suspected concussions or other injuries.

On the other hand pro boxers are once again subject to rules and procedures which not only lack uniformity, but they are in certain locals devoid of stringency. That’s to say in many instances if not in general unless a defeated or fallen boxer displays obvious signs of trauma or is unable to under his or her own power exit a venue, restrictions are less likely to be imposed. This increases the likelihood of recurring injuries or worse.

(7) Amateurs are matched up according to three criteria to assure fairness and safety. Only one of these criteria is prerequisite amongst professional athletes. That criteria as concerns amateur athletes requires that contestants be of similar or identical weight, age, and or experience level so as to showcase as much as possible even handed bouts which promote the safety and well-being of each boxer.

Not quite the case in professional boxing, the dictates are often very different so that weight is the only common factor involved here if that. In fact, under-skilled prizefighters are matched with vastly more talented if not heavier more experienced opposition on a regular basis. This is to in essence build up the confidence and public stature of one promoter’s fighter not only at the expense of a less well represented opponent, but on occasion at the expense of fairness and safety itself.

(8) Any one of ten people can stop an amateur bout at any time. There aren’t quite as many individuals with similar authority at the pro level. Amateur bouts can be stopped by the referee, the ring doctor, either boxer, either boxers coach, the judges, and or the sanction holder [host] so that when one entity isn’t in a position to prevent unnecessary punishment, another is.

Although the authority to halt professional level proceedings doesn’t reside with as many individuals, once again the dictates, not to mention objectives of pro boxing are seemingly quite different. That’s to say a prizefight is more likely to continue beyond any competitive showing, this mainly due to the knockout factor, as well as unfortunately beyond certain safety concerns when inexperienced referee’s and or ringside physicians are on hand.