What Are the Risks of Boxing?

People seem to be increasingly interested in taking up boxing as a hobby or a workout.

While boxing is a great way to relieve stress and stay fit, it’s also a potentially dangerous sport that can lead to catastrophic injuries.

Understanding the actual risks of boxing is an essential part of getting started.

The following are some of the risks and other things to know about boxing for beginners.

Brain Injuries

When you box another person, you’re at risk of short-term acute head injuries and long-term brain damage.

For example, a relatively new study found that boxing puts you at greater risk of something called chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. This can shrink the brain over time.

This is a risk that comes not only with boxing but other contact sports as well. Shrinking brain areas are linked to an increased risk of neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, psychiatric disturbances, and early death.

The newest study was published in Neurology. The researchers looked at 204 active and retired boxers from the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study, which was a long-term observational study of professional fighters along with controls who didn’t participate in combat sports.

The study found three separate areas of the brain shrink in active boxers compared to controls.

According to The American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 90% of boxers will sustain a traumatic brain injury during their career.

When a boxer is hit directly in the head, it’s similar to being hit by a 13-pound bowling bowl traveling at 20 mph.

Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders can go along with the risk of brain injuries, but it’s a topic worth talking about on its own as well. Often, long-term boxers will experience anxiety, paranoia, depression and aggressiveness.

This is also called punch drunk syndrome. Punchdrunk syndrome leads to behavioral and psychiatric disorders. Experts think this may be the result of repetitive blows to the head.

Facial Injuries

Boxers' faces can sustain all types of injuries and damage like lacerations and cuts. This is because our blood vessels are very close to the skin, and then when the face is hit with a high amount of force, it leads to dramatic-looking injuries because the blood vessels break and come to the surface.

Hand Injuries

The hands are very susceptible to injury if you’re a boxer. You’re hitting a solid object, and even if you just take workout classes where you hit a punching bag and not a person, there could be a risk of hand injuries.

If you were to punch the wrong way, it could lead to part of your knuckle breaking.

Other Injuries

Some of the other injuries that boxers are more likely to sustain include any type of damage to the body like internal organ damage, broken bones, broken teeth or dental injuries, broken ribs or internal bleeding. Eyes are susceptible to hits from below, leading to retinal damage or detachment or retinal hemorrhage.

Shoulder dislocation can occur, mainly if a boxer uses an overly exaggerated motion when they punch.

Safety Tips

If you’re interested in learning to box, having the proper safety equipment can go a long way to reduce the risk of injury.

For example, whether you’re training or sparring, you should use headgear, hand wraps, and a mouthpiece. You also need gloves that weigh a minimum of 16 ounces.

Other safety tips for boxers include:

• Put petroleum jelly on the face so that punches slide off if someone makes contact with it.

• After you work out or spar, use ice. It’s an excellent way to reduce inflammation and soreness and it can help you heal faster and prevent further injuries from developing.

• After you spar or work out, make sure you get plenty of rest to promote healing.

• When you’re going to work out or spar, you should stretch beforehand, which reduces the risk of certain types of injuries like strains and sprains on the muscles.

• If you’re well-conditioned and in good shape, you’re less likely to get injured. Find a boxing coach who can help you if you don’t have one already.

• Learn defensive boxing strategies.

Overall, while boxing does have inherent risks, you can prevent many injuries by using your common sense, having the right equipment, and knowing when it’s time to give your body a break. When you don’t initially treat an injury, that’s what tends to lead to chronic complications.

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