What are the Health Risks in Boxing?

There are many health risks in boxing, not just because it's a physical sport, but also because there can be potential long-term injuries. Find out what they are and what you can do to prevent them.
What are the Health Risks in Boxing?

Last update: 17 August, 2020

The potential health risks in boxing are varied and they’re not all just about blows and traumas. Some potential consequences can include mental health and neural problems in later life.

Boxing is a popular activity in the gym and there are many amateur boxing clubs all around the world. Here, participants can receive specific training and exercise without necessarily needing to go into the ring in a competitive match.

For those people, things are pretty straightforward and controlled. But for people who practice boxing professionally, bouts in the ring come with a number of potential health risks.

One of the main health risks in boxing are cerebral contusions

The most worrying potential injuries in boxing is a cerebral contusion. With a boxer receiving direct blows to the head, this can obviously lead to the formation of bruises within the brain.

Although cerebral contusions in boxing are becoming less common, when it does happen, it’s serious. This is without mentioning the long-term effects, which according to a study published by Deutsches Arzteblatt International, affect up to 20 percent of professional boxers. These include the following symptoms:

  • Memory loss.
  • Frequent headaches.
  • Dementia.
  • Trembling limbs.
  • Depression.

Contusions can either be acute or chronic. In the case of acute contusions, if a large hematoma forms within the skull and presses on vital structures, it can be fatal.

A man with a headache drinking a glass of water.

On the other hand, subacute or chronic contusions develop more slowly and cause more sporadic warning signs. Sufferers may experience periods of random forgetfulness and headaches that are either resolved on their own or with anti-inflammatories. As the pressure of the hematoma increases, the contusion becomes more evident and noticeable.

Facial injuries in boxing

A boxer can receive really powerful blows to the face. So much so that bone fractures and cuts are some of the main injuries in boxing.

Broken noses, in particular, are very common, and this can make it difficult to breathe through the nose if it becomes deformed as a result. This, in turn, can obviously have an effect on breathing and oxygen levels in the body.

Below the nose, the jaw and dental arch are also very common places that suffer in boxing. Dislocated jaws, for example, aren’t unheard of.

Up to 75 percent of boxers can have problems chewing as a result of competitive fights, according to a study carried out by researchers from the Jorge Basadre Grohmann National University in Peru.

However, the main facial injuries suffered in boxing relates to the eyes. The retina, which is at the back of the eye, can tear and even become detached as a result of constant trauma. In the worst of cases, this can lead to a loss of sight.

Should certain people abstain from boxing?

Considering the health risks involved in boxing, there are obviously some recommendations that people should pay attention to if they’re considering taking up the sport. Certain people simply shouldn’t take part in this activity because the risks for them are so great.

Even if not competing and simply using boxing as a way of keeping fit, the possible injuries should still be considered. Training will still involve contact and be physically very demanding.

Two boxers fighting despite the health risks.

People who take anti-coagulants or suffer from coagulation disorders shouldn’t practice boxing. Hematomas are very common and this could be serious for someone who suffers from a blood problem.

People who suffer from arthritis or osteoarthritis shouldn’t consider boxing either. Punching with the fists or defending using the arms can put enormous strain on the joints and will only make inflammation worse.

As for people with heart problems, they should really get permission from their doctor before they decide to take up boxing. The intensity of the sport, which is considered one of the most intense sports there are, will raise your blood pressure and heart rate to a great extent.

Is boxing a health risk?

The simple answer is yes. This sport carries numerous health risks and they’re quite plain for anyone to see. However, there are many sports out there which also involve a lot of risks, and this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do them.

We can’t pretend these risks don’t exist and for some people, this will mean that this sport isn’t for you. For everybody else, there’s a big difference between sparring for fun and competing professionally, and you should think very carefully about how far you want to go. In all cases, you should make sure that you’re supervised by a professional trainer at all times to help control the levels of risk.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Förstl, Hans, et al. Boxing—Acute Complications and Late Sequelae: From Concussion to Dementia. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International 107.47 (2010): 835.
  • Mamani Choque, Milagros Liz Teresa. Prevalencia de severidad de los trastornos temporomandibulares en deportistas de la Liga de Boxeo. Tacna 2017. (2019).
  • López, Anabel Blázquez, et al. Oposición de la medicina a la práctica del boxeo profesional: un acercamiento a lo largo de la historia. Revista Científica Estudiantil UNIMED 1.1 (2019): 106.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.