How do you feel about boxing for kids? I am a fan of the sport and feel that it is an excellent choice for kids who do not blend well in the team play dynamic. Sports like the martial arts, golf and tennis offer kids an amazing athletic experience and team-training environment without the pressure of being on a team. Boxing is a sport that has always sat in the grey area of popularity compared to the mainstream sports. Having been around boxing since I was 6 years old, I think it is odd that I can recall aspects of its social acceptance. The Olympic and Sugar Ray Leonard years were when boxing was cool and people talked about it. I can remember at 6 years old, a random woman gave my father this awful expression (it clearly spoke complete disapproval) when he said he was taking me to Daley’s Boxing Gym (it was on the old Navy Pier) to hang out while he was training. As I grew up people would say things like, “How could you let her fight?” Granted it was more shocking because I was a girl, but I wasn’t fighting, I was involved in various martial arts, boxing included that had sparring with safety equipment.
Boxing Disapproved by Pediatricians
A recent statement was released by US and Canadian pediatrician groups discouraging kids from the sport of boxing. Of course their position is driven by the risk of brain injuries. Dr. Laura Purcell, co-author of this statement, along with the Canadian Pediatric Society (CPA) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued updated recommendations. They are asking doctors (pediatricians as a whole) to oppose the sport of boxing because of the risks of concussions and facial injuries. This suggestion and open disapproval of the sport of boxing is very unfair, because it does not make an equal recommendation to sports that have a much higher incidence of brain injuries. The truth is that boxing as a whole has a much lower incidence of concussions compared to other mainstream sports like football, hockey, basketball etc…
Boxing is Less Dangerous Than Football and Hockey
A new study showed that there have been twice as many kids (8yr to 13 yrs) treated for concussions in US ERs over the past decade. According to a story on WebMD,there were about 500,000 of these concussions reported in ER records from 2001 to 2005. About 50% came from sport related incidents in general. Sadly 40% of those were concussions between 8 and 13 years of age. But the majority of these injuries were from football, hockey, snow skiing, bicycling and playground injuries. The story points out that this is strange, since participation is sports declined during those same years, yet concussions have doubled. Is it because there are less trained coaches with degrees in physical education, more parent coaches, less money going to equipment or that kids are simply bigger today?
All the various articles I keep reading offer alarming statistics and makes me feel a little stressed about my kids being in any sports at all. I realize that I need to be aware of the risks, but the truth is that kids get hurt from physical activity and some sports increase that risk. Although I am trying to summarize the several positions and reports from the Canadian and American Pediatric agencies, they present so many studies with different year spans.
Stop Picking on Boxing
With that being said, I feel it is unfair to pick on boxing as a sport. According to a Pediatrics Journal article , 4.8% of hospital admissions were due to the sport of boxing. This included all injuries, not just concussions. Although I wish there were no head injuries in the sport I love so much, one study did reveal that 13% of all amateur matches ended because of concussions. Keep in mind, it does not indicate what years this was for – I am assuming it was from 1990 to 2007 which is the years listed for the other studies.
As a parent, educator and professional in the athletic community I want to make clear sense of all these studies. But I am struggling since the studies do not offer the years for all the data. So I am going to try to organize these numbers the best I can.
In 2008 alone, there were 18,000 kids registered in USA Boxing. So even if I apply that 13% (which is actually for a larger span of years), it means about 2300 kids of 18,000 kids registered incurred concussions. Putting this in perspective in the defense of these new recommendations made by CPA and AAP, there were 95,000 kids ( I realize more kids play these sports than boxing) with concussions from football, basketball, baseball, soccer and hockey from 2001 to 2005.
Concussions Are Scary, Protocols Should Be Followed for All Sports
I agree with the new guidelines for head injuries overall and that everyone needs to follow the new protocol for head injuries incurred during sport play or play. No win is worth brain trauma. So USA Boxing , the NFL, The Olympic commissions, the Chicago Public School System, fire departments and even AYSO must send any child/person with a head injury to the ER. This is important because only 10% of concussions result in loss of consciousness. In fact, the symptoms of a concussion may not be demonstrated until days after the injury. Part of the updated recommendations does address the post-injury follow up procedure. The AAP is suggesting that physical and mental exertion (including homework, video games and tv) be restricted until all symptoms are gone. This may include even completely ceasing from physical activity for an extended period of time. For more on identifying symptoms of a concussion click here.
So I Ask…
How do you feel about this knowing this information?
Should the CPA and AAP ask pediatricians to oppose football and hockey too? Or do you feel because of the very nature of the sport of boxing, that it should be opposed by APP and the Olympic sport of boxing should slowly eliminate its youth programs and only allow older teenagers to enter the sport?