Is Boxing Safe For Kids? 16 – Year Old Loses Life To Sparring

Is Boxing Safe For Kids?

16-year-old Raul Alvarez Jr., resident of North Hollywood, CA, sadly lost his life to sparring last Thursday, during a boxing practice with his partner, after getting struck hard straight in the face. Immediately after the hit Alvarez was reported to complain of a headache, and he lost consciousness shortly after the ambulance rushed him to the hospital. An hour later he was pronounced dead. As per the reports published by Huffington Post, it was noted that both men were adorning suitable and appropriate head protection, and standard boxing gloves.

Alvarez’s passing, however, surfaced a few unanswered questions:

Q1|Is our youth / kids protective gear safe enough?

Q2|Should kids even be boxing in the first place?

As it stands true for any controversy involving children, this debate too can cater to two diverging emphatic views and schools of thought.

  • Boxing – as a Life Saver

Boxing as a sport has been embraced by many as a Godsend for kids. Aside from playing a major role in getting them into shape, it also teaches them discipline, self-control and gives them an outlet for pent-up anger. Additionally, it aids in keeping kids off the streets and consequently out of trouble, while helping them grow confidence and know-how of standing up for oneself, applying basic self-defense mechanisms. It’s no secret that many kids who turn to boxing at an early age do so out of a need to protect themselves from bullies, naturally as a consequence of tough experiences.

“I had anger issues…I was short-tempered. I had trouble at school, acting out, giving teachers trouble… [Boxing has] taught me to be more controlled…Now I use my emotions inside the ring.  The self-control I’ve learned here I have to take outside,” said 15-year-old Austin Morrissey from Boston, MA who is currently training with Ashland Youth Boxing Club.

“I [learned] how to control myself… If I have something on my mind, a little stress, I just channel it all out on the bag,” said Steven, a 13-year-old from John’s Boxing Gym in the Bronx, NY, who was initially identified with as a ‘problem child’ but now according to his father has become much more manageable.

  • Boxing – as a Potential Killer

Despite such endorsements, for all children under the age of 19, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a statement in 2011. In the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, according to a study on youth boxing injuries, kids ranging between the age bracket of 6-17 had a whopping 211% increase in the rate of injury. Numerically speaking from 5,361 in 1990 to 17,000 in 2008.

Al though it should be noted that some of these injuries would include relatively minor cuts and abrasions, however, it’s the not-so-minor injuries that have physicians worried.

“We expected a smaller proportion of concussions… among younger boxers, since they generate a lower punch force… The fact that young boxers are experiencing a similar proportion of concussions [closed head injuries], and for older boxers it is extremely concerning given the potential risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) with repetitive brain trauma. These repetitive blows to the head may be placing boxers under 18 years of age at risk for neurological impairment and psychological problems due to CTE,” head trauma being a major concern as head researcher Dr. Gary Smith explained to Medical News earlier today.

Although most brands have introduced some well-designed, highly durable and protective kids gear, there is no way to ensure that overall injury is avoided. This definitely points out at a legitimate enough reason or two, for parents and guardians to consider before deciding upon whether their children should be allowed to partake in boxing or not.

Contrary to this many pro-youth boxing advocates still claim that boxing has an unmatched ability to foster motivation, and self-discipline in youth, which easily outweighs all potential risks associated with the craft.  Furthermore, according to CNN Health, protective equipment has been examined to improve with time.

Joe DeGuardia, Bronx boxing club owner, pointed out that sparring comprises of a very small part of overall training, which focuses more on conditioning and shadow boxing in contrast to actual fist-to-face contact.

Let’s be real for a minute! It’s true, there is a risk of injury associated with most sports, boxing though is unique because participants are rewarded for intentionally striking their opponent in the face and head with the intent of harming or incapacitating them. Considering Alvarez’s recent death, physician warnings and all the heartfelt pro-youth boxing testimonials, it really is difficult to decide if the rise of youth boxing really is for better or for worse.

Where do you stand?