Health Risks of Boxing

By Ashley Berg , last updated February 24, 2012

Though boxing is a popular sport for both men and women, it can pose a number of obvious and less obvious health risks for those who engage in it. Boxing requires a lot of skill and practice, but injuries and pain are sure to result for even the most careful and talented athletes. Short-term effects are sometimes easy to see, but some of the less well-known problems occur over time. If you are a boxer or know one and are concerned about what the safety risks inherent in the sport are, here are a few of the problems associated with boxing that can affect anyone, professional or amateur.

Cuts and Bruises

Boxers take a lot of pummeling, and these hits can lead to scrapes, cuts, gashes, and blood blisters. In addition, many boxers see the loss of teeth, or need dental work. Cuts and bruises heal fairly quickly, and teeth can be replaced, but the risk of infection is always a concern, and scars on the face are not always deemed advantageous by society. Too much damage to the face can cause irrevocable feature changes, though serious long-term harm is unlikely.

Broken Bones

A step further on the damage scale are broken bones. Whether on the face or body, broken bones are serious injuries that can cause permanent damage, the inability to function properly, and can even lead to death or paralysis in the case of a broken neck. Broken bones take much longer to heal than a stitched cut or deep bruise, and if not set properly by a trained physician, they can be a source of constant and permanent pain. With punches constantly raining down on the face, head, ribs, and stomach, it is easy to suffer an injury that may take you out of the sport for life.

Brain Damage

The human brain cannot withstand constant blows without permanent damage. Even one hit can cause concussions, fractures, and brain damage. Professional boxers are at a higher risk for these serious injuries, but even amateurs see an exceptionally high rate of problems. Once brain tissue is damaged it is permanently damaged, and no amount of time or treatment will ever lead to recovery. One sign of a particularly harmful blow is “punch-drunk syndrome,” where the boxer appears drunk, with slurred speech and slow reactions.

Eye Injuries

Human heads safely encase the eyes behind a solid wall of bone around the sides of the face, but even so, eye injuries are common in boxing, though they are often under-diagnosed. Even if the eyes are not hit straight on, shock waves from hits to the face can cause retina damage and even detachment, or hemorrhages.


Fortunately, deaths in boxing are relatively rare as compared to other professional sports. Padded gloves help minimize the likelihood of being beaten to death, along with referees to stop potentially fatal interactions. However, death is still a risk, but may come as a result of years of abuse to the body and head, as opposed to falling immediately in the ring.

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