Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Should we ban boxing?

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 27 January 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i389
  1. Shaun Rudd, immediate past president, Australian Medical Association Queensland,
  2. James Hodge, policy officer, AMA Queensland,
  3. Rachael Finley, media and communication adviser, AMA Queensland,
  4. Peter Lewis, chair, Australasian Ringside Medicine Association,
  5. Michael Wang, medical student, Monash University
  1. Correspondence to: R Finley r.finley{at}, P Lewis peterlewis3143{at}

The death of professional boxer Braydon Smith after a fight last year prompted renewed calls for the sport to be banned, including from Shaun Rudd and colleagues. But Peter Lewis and Michael Wang say that this would restrict individual autonomy and is impractical

Yes—Shaun Rudd, James Hodge, Rachael Finley

The first important recognition of boxing as a sport was its inclusion in the ancient Greek Olympiad in 688 BC.1 Since then, despite society’s evolution, boxing has persisted as a relic of the barbarity of bygone eras. It is time we recognise boxing as little more than state condoned assault that should be banned immediately. Professional boxing is a commercial activity, with some fighters highly rewarded for taking risks.

Medical professionals have long called for bans, with the World Medical Association noting “its basic intent is to produce bodily harm in the opponent. Boxing can result in death and produces an alarming incidence of chronic brain injury.”2 This criticism is well founded. Acute and long term injuries are prevalent—unsurprising considering that the force of a professional boxer’s punch is comparable with being hit with a 6 kg bowling ball travelling at 32 km/hour.3

Injury rates

In Victoria, Australia, analysis of 907 professional boxing bouts among 545 boxers over 8.5 years found 214 injuries reported in 177 (19.5%) fights, giving an injury rate of 23.6/100.4 This rate increased to 60.7 injuries per 100 fights when including knockout and technical knockout losses. The most common injuries were wounds or lacerations to the head (61.7%), concussion (11.7%), and fractures (8.4%). One death occurred as a result of complications of a left frontoparietal subdural haemorrhage with cerebral infarction and associated oedema.4 These rates do not include injuries during practice fighting (sparring) so actually rates are higher.

A prevalence study in Canada between 2000 and 2012 using medical …

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