Boxing is not an appropriate sport for children and teens, say the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS), in a new policy statement, "Boxing Participation by Children and Adolescents," published in the September 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online Aug. 29).
"We want children and teens to actively pursue sport and recreation, but boxing is not a good option," said Claire LeBlanc, MD, FAAP, co-author of the new position statement and chair of the CPS Healthy Active Living and Sports Medicine Committee. "We recommend young people participate in sports where the prime focus is not deliberate blows to the head."
Amateur boxers are at serious risk of face and brain injuries including concussion. Children's brains are more vulnerable to concussion, and recovery takes longer than for adults. Though amateur boxers wear safety gear, there is no evidence to show that head guards actually reduce the incidence of concussions.
"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 Dr. LeBlanc.
USA Boxing and Boxing Canada do not keep statistics on the number of participants or injury rates of their members. However, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database shows boxing injuries seen in U.S. emergency departments averaged 8,716 injuries per year and increased significantly from 1990 to 2008. Thirty-five percent of injuries to men and boys that were unrelated to punching bags were to the head and neck, especially concussions and lacerations. Concussions represented 8.1 percent of these injuries, and were similar across age groups from 12 to 34 years of age. This is worrisome, considering repetitive blows to the head over time may be a risk factor for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, said the authors.
The AAP and CPS are calling on pediatricians and other health professionals to strongly discourage boxing participation among their patients and guide them toward alternative sport and recreational activities such as swimming, tennis, basketball and volleyball.