Q. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently renewed its policy statement urging children and teens to avoid boxing as a sport. Why is the academy against it?
A. Pediatricians don't want kids pursuing a sport in which the goal is deliberate blows to the head. A boxing match is won outright if an opponent is knocked out, and points are scored for accuracy of a punch's impact.
Children's brains are more vulnerable to concussion, and recovery takes longer than for adults, according to the academy. Beyond concussion, the sport's focus also puts participants at risk of face injuries, including lacerations, eye damage and broken noses. Chronic brain injury also can be caused by repeated blows to the head over time, even if the child never suffers an official concussion, says Dr. Michael Grosso, pediatrician and senior vice president of medical affairs at Huntington Hospital.
"Participants are at risk of head injuries that may be cumulative and even fatal," the academy's position paper agrees. No evidence proves head guards and safety gear reduce the incidence of concussions. "This is a re-raising of an issue the academy has addressed in the past," Grosso says. "It's highlighting an issue that deserves ongoing attention, like many other hazards to health and safety."
During annual physicals, pediatricians routinely ask which sports kids participate in, Grosso says. He hasn't found boxing to be popular among local kids. The policy statement recommends that physicians and parents encourage alternatives, such as swimming, tennis, basketball and volleyball.