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John McKiggan Q.C.
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Should Children Be Allowed to Box or Train in MMA?

2 comments

Doctors Call for Ban on Boxing for Children

The Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics have released a statement calling on a ban on amateur boxing for children and teenagers.

According to statistics collected by the Public Health Agency of Canada from fifteen hospitals across the country over a seventeen year period showed that boxing was the number one cause of hospitalization compared with other combat sports like judo, wrestling or mixed martial arts.

The study indicated that 58% of boxers had facial fractures and 25% of them suffered from concussions or other closed head injuries.

Recently sports like hockey and football have received some negative publicity for a series concussions suffered by high profile athletes. Perhaps surprisingly there has been little attention paid to combat sports. Dr. Claire LeBlanc one of the authors of the Canadian study said boxing is a sport where “intentional blows to the head are rewarded.”

Brain Injury Myth

One of the myths of minor traumatic brain injury is that children recover faster from brain injuries than adults. This myth has been dispelled by a recent research which shows that children’s brains are more vulnerable to the injury and that it takes them longer to recover from concussion than do adults.

I have to admit that I have been a big fan of boxing for most of my life. I remember when I was a teenager my dad took me to the Halifax Forum to watch Chris Clarke and Clyde Gray fight for the Commonwealth Welterweight title back in 1979. So I have been a fan of boxing for more than thirty years.

However, in my profession as a brain injury lawyer I have seen the serious and long term consequences that concussions can have on young people. Therefore, as much as I love the “sweet science” I have to say that I agree with the Canadian Medical Association that children shouldn’t be boxing.

Football and Hockey Can Learn from Boxing

That being said, the organised sport of boxing has been aware of the dangers of concussion for decades and the sport has taken active measures to protect amateur and professional boxers from serious head injuries where other sports appear to have ignored the problem.

For example, if a boxer suffers a concussion it is common place for the boxer be banned from fighting and training for at least a month to allow for proper recuperation.

Whereas sports like football and hockey are only now starting to become aware of the dangers of MTBI and paying attention to the potential dangers of "second impact syndrome" from repeated concussions. See for example Hockey Players Losing More Time Due To Concussions – Nova Scotia Brain Injury Claims and 25% of Junior Hockey Players Suffer Brain Injuries: Ontario Medical Study

Boxing vs. MMA

I have been a fan of mixed martial arts (MMA) since the 90’s. What I find ironic is the opposition MMA and organizations like the UFC face from the general public.

The irony is that boxing is so main stream the public, when it thinks about the sport at all, doesn’t appear to have much concern about injuries to participants.The truth is while boxing may be less bloody than mixed martial arts, it is far more dangerous when it comes to the incidence of serious head injury.

A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine titled “Incidence of Injury in Professional Mixed Martial Arts Competitions” showed that while the injury rate in MMA competitions is comparable with other combat sports that involve striking (like boxing and karate) MMA has significantly lower knock out rates compared to boxing.

A study of injury rates of professional boxers in Nevada showed boxing matches ended in a knockout nearly twice as often as MMA matches.

The authors speculate that the opportunity for MMA fighters to be able to stop a fight themselves by "tapping out" and the fact that MMA fights can end via submission through grabbling lowers the incidents of knockouts and thus lowers the potential rate of brain injury.

What Do You Think?

Are you a fan of boxing or MMA? Should children or teenagers be banned from either sport? Or is the answer better training? What about "mainstream" sports like hockey and football? What should be done to protect young atheletes in those sports?

2 Comments

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  1. michael says:
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    Kids should be allowed to participate in both, by amateur experience in most sports i have seen several injuries, and overall MMA is considerably more safe than most sports, and boxing is not that dangerous if the trainer throughs in the towel when reasonable, but most do not. so if everybody involved in the sports do as they are suppose to, nothing should go extremely wrong. the real problem are kids who sit on their couches all day do nothing but gain weight and diabetes.

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    Michael: No question the training and experience of coaches is critical, in any sport, to ensure that kids don’t get injured. I think this is an area that organized sports like football, hockey and rugby are playin catch-up to boxing and other combat sports.

    I agree we need to do everything we can to encourage chidren to lead active lives.

    The concern I have is that the potential for harm is so great for kids who are involved in boxing that we need to give some serious thought as to whether the risks outweigh the benefits.