14 Ways to Safer Boxing
By Joe Svinth
Copyright © Joseph Svinth 2002. All rights reserved.
Boxing is an excellent striking art and its drills can get you into
shape very quickly. But getting hit in the head is NOT good for you (cognitive
skills deteriorate with each successive concussion), and beginners are
at greater risk of being hit than are more experienced fighters. So some
Join your national boxing organization and keep your membership current,
as this provides medical insurance if you get injured during training or
competition. (You do have medical, dental, and life insurance, don’t you?)
The USA Boxing website is http://www.usaboxing.org.
Check out your coaches, trainers, and cornermen carefully: you want handlers
who honestly care about you as a person, and won’t mismatch you just to
fill a card or make a buck. (For a really tragic tale of what happens when
you have trainers more interested in giving the fans a show than in their
fighters’ health, see http://www.coxnews.com/boc/metro/sports.html#.
On the other hand, for a description of how the fight world ought to be,
follow the links at http://www.secondsout.com/ringside/index.asp.)
Safety is your responsibility, not the coach’s or the gym owner’s. (This
may sound bizarre, but the courts have ruled this way a number of times.)
So before sparring or competing, make sure that turnbuckles are padded,
ropes are tight, and that ring floors (and the floors outside the ring)
are both padded and free of tables, chairs, and the like. After all, many
serious injuries have been the result of relatively uninjured boxers striking
their heads against ropes, the floor, etc.
Make sure that first aid is available, and that the phone works.
If you are functionally one-eyed (e.g., your corrected vision is worse
than 20/50 in one eye), then don’t spar or compete, as there is significant
risk of ocular injury in boxing.
During serious training and before any competition, avoid alcoholic beverages
and drugs (legal or otherwise), anticoagulants (aspirin included), and
major dehydration (to include sweating off weight), as all of these have
been shown to increase risk of serious brain injuries in boxers.
Make sure your hands are properly wrapped, otherwise you risk breaking
your knuckles. Some suggestions for wrapping appear at http://www.boxinggyms.com/tips/handwraps.htm.
However, don’t get carried away, as improper wraps may not protect your
hands, or become unintentional clubs.
Before sparring, smear petroleum jelly on your face, as this helps prevent
When sparring, always wear properly fitted headgear.
When sparring, always wear a professionally fitted (or at least a new)
mouthguard, as improperly fitted mouthguards don’t provide much protection.
For some background, see http://www.dentalresourcenet.ca/soap/patient/mouthgrd.htm.
Note that the boxer’s mouthguard should not be one of the cheap plastic
ones used by football players, as these don’t provide a lot of protection
from jaw injuries. The best mouthguards are those designed by dentists,
but there are also some relatively cheap commercial mouthguards designed
specifically for boxing. See, for example, http://store.everlastboxing.com/everlast-mouthguard-brain-pad-high-performance-model.html.
When sparring, wear a cup. You might want to consider a professional groin
protector rather than one of those cheap little plastic jobs.
When sparring, use 16-ounce gloves. While lighter gloves protect your hands,
they do nothing to protect the brains of either you or your sparring partner.
When sparring, protect yourself at all times. Some opponents hit late,
others hit early, and there are even a few who lace, headbutt, gouge, strike
low, and otherwise cheat. This may not be nice to mention, but it is a
Most importantly, if you are knocked out or suffer a concussion, have toothaches
or impacted teeth, start seeing double, have ringing in your ears, or have
severe headaches, stop sparring and see a neurosurgeon immediately! For
how long one should take off from training/competition following a brain
injury, see http://www.emedicine.com/sports/topic113.htm,
Such a long list of warnings! Really, they’re nothing more than
common sense, and if you take the precautions, then your risk of serious
injury is significantly reduced.