Don't Let Kids Box, Pediatricians Say

Leading pediatricians are warning parents to keep children out of the boxing ring. The risk for injuries to the brain and face is too great, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Canadian Paediatric Society said yesterday in the journal Pediatrics.

The main concern is serious head injuries among kids and teens. Young boxers have been known to suffer concussions, just like the pros, but the data on head injuries is scarce, LeBlanc says. The limited government records in the U.S. suggest that the rate of head injuries among 12- to 17-year-olds, as well as older boxers, is about 3 for every 1,000 participants.

Perhaps even more alarming to pediatricians is the creeping possibility, based on studies of professional boxers, that young boxers could develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition caused by repetitive blows to the head that can lead to dementia-like symptoms later in life.

Minor injuries such as bloody noses, tennis elbow, and cuts are not uncommon, but thanks to protective headgear that covers most of the face and padded boxing gloves that absorb punches, serious injuries are highly unusual, says Joe DeGuardia, the owner of the Morris Park Boxing Club, in the Bronx.

Moreover, sparring makes up only a fraction of training. Young boxers spend most of their time stretching, conditioning, and practicing punch combinations outside the ring, where injuries are "very rare," says DeGuardia, who is also the president of the Boxing Promoters Association and has been training young boxers for more than two decades.

More to the point, DeGuardia adds, the benefits young people derive from boxing -- such as confidence, motivation, physical fitness, and especially self-discipline -- "certainly outweigh the risks."

What do you think? Would you let your child box?

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