Gloves make boxing more dangerous

Boxing and Health

How dangerous is boxing for your health?

On January 3, 2008, shortly after midnight, there was no hope for Choi Yo-Sam. Doctors declared the South Korean boxer brain dead and the life support machines he was connected to were turned off.

Nine days earlier, Choi was still in the ring. It was about the intercontinental flyweight title. He had started to defend his title against the Indonesian Heri Amol. In the final lap, Choi went down after a hit, but he got up again and brought the fight to an end.

The judges had just declared him the winner when it happened: While still in the ring, he collapsed unconscious and fell into a coma. Diagnosis: cerebral haemorrhage. An immediate emergency operation was unsuccessful.

Even the most famous boxer of all time has been struggling with health problems for a long time. In 1982 Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. His hands began to tremble uncontrollably more and more often, his facial muscles froze, the articulation failed. A consequence of his fights, in which he often went beyond the pain threshold and after which he was sometimes in the hospital for weeks?

Sounds plausible, but has never been proven. Parkinson's disease, which is triggered by an imbalance of various messenger substances in the brain, can have many causes.

So is everyone who gets into a boxing ring exposed to an incalculable risk? Not necessarily. You have to differentiate between professionals and amateurs.

In the amateur field, boxers are much better protected. They wear head protection and larger and heavier gloves, which reduces the impact force. In addition, amateur fights last a maximum of four rounds of two minutes each, which also reduces the risk of injury. Because heavy hits in the head often happen in later rounds, when stamina and concentration decline.

In addition, in contrast to the professionals, in amateur boxing, clean hits are more in the foreground than the knockout. A Swedish study from 1993 compared the brain damage of amateur boxers, soccer players and track and field athletes and could not find any noticeable differences.

In 2007 the British Medical Journal examined various studies and came to the conclusion that there was no connection between amateur boxing and long-term brain damage.

The situation is different with the professionals. Because Choi Yo-Sam is not an isolated case. It is estimated that since 1945 over 500 boxers worldwide have died as a result of head injuries sustained in combat or training.

Medical associations such as the British Medical Association have therefore been calling for a ban on professional boxing for years. In some countries, such as Iceland, Cuba or Sweden, this is already in force.

But the chances that the ban will be enforced worldwide are very slim. The lobby for boxing advocates is large. Your arguments: Boxing is by far not the most dangerous sport. Fatal accidents occur much more often when riding, climbing or in motorsport.

Author: Ingo Neumayer