Boxing has been around since it was added to the Olympics in 688 BC and likely for thousands of years before that.
Over the years, more and more rules have made it safer, especially for amateur boxers. In contrast to professional boxers, amateur boxers:
- wear a head guard
- use more heavily cushioned gloves
- have shorter rounds
- have fewer rounds
For example, at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, each bout consisted of three rounds of three minutes each.
Still, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a new policy statement that will be published in the September issue of Pediatrics, recommends that physicians "vigorously oppose boxing in youth and encourage patients to participate in alternative sport in which intentional blows are not central to the sports."
The policy statement, "Boxing Participation by Children and Adolescents," also highlights the risks of concussions, chronic traumatic brain injury, and boxers who use unsafe practices to make their weight class.
"While most sports have some risk of injury, boxing is especially dangerous because these athletes are rewarded for dedicated and deliberate hits to their opponent's head," said Claire LeBlanc, MD, FAAP, co-author of the new position statement and chair of the CPS Healthy Active Living and Sports Medicine Committee.
The risks of youth boxing is especially worrisome because children's brains can be more vulnerable to concussion, and can take longer to recover than an adult.
If your child does box, make sure he or she gets appropriate medical care before and after matches, including regular regular neurocognitive and ophthalmologic screening examinations, and that you follow return-to-play guidelines after injuries.
Not surprisingly, the AAP has always been against youth boxing. Their original policy statement on boxing came out in 1997 and it also recommended that pediatricians "Vigorously oppose boxing as a sport for any child, adolescent, or young adults."
What is a little surprising though, is that although this is the second AAP policy statement about youth boxing, there is no policy statement on mixed martial arts for kids.
Although boxing may have benefits for kids, including encouraging physical activity, self-discipline, and self-confidence, but the AAP still recommends that kids find an alternative sport to play.