I love combat sports such as boxing. I have doing some form of martial art for almost as long as I have been involved in sports medicine. This has given me the perspective of the patient as well as the medical provider. Most of my colleagues think I’m crazy to participate in sports that carry a risk such as concussions. I usually ignore them, but recently I became a father and this made me ask myself, “Would I want my child doing this stuff?” As a dad what should I do?
Despite a huge increase in research concussions remain one of the most complex injuries we face in sports medicine. A concussion occurs from a rapid change in acceleration of the brain. Like when someone catches you with that left hook you never saw coming. According to the National Athletic Trainers Association you can suffer a concussion even without being knocked out, and being younger makes it easier for you to suffer a concussion. Symptoms can include headache, fogginess, and emotional changes among a list of others, and if you have a concussion an MRI, x-ray, or CAT scan might look completely normal.
The decision on whether your child should participate in boxing is a personal one. However I know every time someone chin checks me my face hurts a little, and I get mad, but that doesn’t mean I have a concussion. One or two symptoms alone don’t guarantee a concussion. I also know nothing gets me in shape, focuses me, gives me self-confidence, and helps me relieve stress better than a great boxing workout. On the other hand a concussion is serious, and we are still studying the long term affects. So if you think your child has one they should be checked out by a qualified medical professional like the ones here at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health. However does the answer to my earlier question have to be yes or no?
People participate in boxing for different reasons, and if your child isn’t planning on competing why do they need to spar? Not sparring won’t eliminate the risk of concussion, but it will decrease it. If they are competing are they wearing the right head gear, and gloves? Wearing appropriate protection again won’t eliminate the risk of concussion, but it will significantly protect them from facial trauma. Finally do they need to spar every day? A baseball pitcher doesn’t throw fast balls every day for practice. To train for boxing they can do more than just box. Working on footwork, movement, speed, strength, and power individually are just as important as getting in the ring with someone.
So the answer to my questions is yes I personally would let my child box. The sport provides many great benefits physically, and psychologically. However you can bet I would be watching very closely to make sure they were training right, and training smart. Also if my child displayed signs of a concussion they would immediately be checked out by the professionals here at the Cleveland Clinic.
– Matt Hixon PT, SCS, CSCS