Thousands of boys and girls younger than 19 years of age participate in boxing in North America. Although boxing provides benefits for participants, including exercise, self-discipline and self-confidence, the sport of boxing encourages and rewards deliberate blows to the head and face. Because of the risk of head and facial injuries, the Canadian Paediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics oppose boxing as a sport for children and adolescents. These organizations recommend that physicians vigorously oppose boxing in youth and encourage patients to participate in alternative sports in which intentional head blows are not central to the sport. (Source: http://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/boxing)
On the other side of the controversy, the Turner Boxing Academy reports that the National Safety Council ranked boxing 71st in sports injuries, well below mainstream sports like wrestling, football, baseball, soccer and even bowling. Most of the negative publicity about the sport is centered around professional boxing, which in fact is much different than amateur boxing.
No other amateur sport takes more precautions in regards to safety than amateur boxing. Amateur boxers must receive a physical examination before and after each match and special protective equipment is mandatory to enter the ring. The primary objective of all amateur referees is the safety of the boxers, and all competition gloves and headgear contain an exact combination of shock-absorbent foams to reduce impact..
According to Turner, amateur boxing is a sport that rewards technical proficiency and the use of athleticism rather than the power of administering pain. A point system is used to score each match, and knockdowns are worth one point, the same as a correctly positioned punch. The goal is to score points, not punches. Less than one percent of all amateur boxing contests end in a knockout, which is less than the overall infection rate for elective nonurgent surgeries.
How does amateur boxing compare to safety stats for other sports? Turner reports that over 20% of all high school football players suffer at least one concussion per season with 10 – 15 deaths in high school football alone in North America. Baseball has the highest fatality rate among all sports for children aged 5 – 14.
Pathologist Ed Friedlander writes in his blog pathguy.com. that “whatever consensus documents my professional colleagues draft, there will always be many young males who want to engage in amateur boxing. In my opinion, the health risks of today’s amateur boxing, properly supervised, have been exaggerated badly enough to justify my speaking out in the sport’s defense. “
Personally, after spending Sunday March 3rd, 2013 as ringside doc at the Right to Fight event in Barrie, I was amazed at the attention to detail, safety, sportsmanship and respect for the sport and heroes of the sport. Having never worked a boxing event prior to now, I too was somewhat skeptical concerning the support of boxing as a sport for youth where one of the goals is to hit the other player in the head.
Yet, having watched children plunge down icy steep slopes of Nakiska at full speed, having myself competed in windsurfing events in shark-infested waters, and considering the number of young athletes who chose to flip motocross bikes in the air off cement and wooden ramps, boxing as a sport seems somewhat tame and significantly more controlled on the safety side of competition than most of the sports I have officiated at or competed in. The sum total of my treatments Sunday: one bloody nose and one cut lip–no one needed stitches, no paramedics were called, and that is not the case at a typical ski race day in the Rockies. There will always be controversy. But in the end, the Right to Fight remains.
Raymond Olubowale, current Canadian Heavy Weight Champ.