AAP: No Boxing for Children, Teens
< Aug. 31, 2011 > -- Although thousands of children and teens participate in boxing programs across the U.S., the sport isn't appropriate for young people, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says.
That's because the goal of boxing is to score points by hitting an opponent's head, face, and upper torso. Concussions are the most common boxing injury, and blows to the head are a major concern for children and teens. Young brains are more vulnerable to concussions and take longer to recover.
In addition, the AAP says, amateur boxers are at risk for structural brain abnormalities such as micro hemorrhages.
"In boxing, children and youth are encouraged and rewarded for hitting the head," says Claire LeBlanc, M.D., who co-authored the policy statement released this week by the AAP and the Canadian Paediatric Society. "We're saying, don't put kids in a sport where hitting the head is condoned and encouraged."
The AAP first weighed in against boxing for children back in 1997, but the group decided to update its statement because of additional evidence on the dangers of blows to the head. The new policy statement will be published in the September issue of Pediatrics.
"We just can't say that repetitive blows to the head aren't dangerous," Dr. LeBlanc says. "We have a much better understanding of concussions now, and repetitive concussions can have a negative impact on many aspects of cognitive function."
Proponents of boxing for young people argue that other contact sports like football and soccer have higher rates of injury than boxing. They also say that boxing provides an important outlet for children and teens who don't have access to other, safer sporting activities.
But LeBlanc and other experts say that boxing should be singled out because of its focus on hits to the head.
"Can't kids get 60 minutes of aerobic activity without promoting violence or blows to the head?" Dr. LeBlanc says.
Both the AAP and its Canadian counterpart recommend that a youngster with a concussion rest physically - and cognitively - until all symptoms are gone. "Cognitive rest" in children means limiting not only school work but also other mental stressors like text-messaging, computer work, and video games, the AAP statement says.
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Helmets Can Reduce Injuries
Head injuries are most common in contact sports, but protective equipment can limit the risk. A helmet reduces the force of contact and slows the impact to the brain. But helmets can give athletes a sense of invulnerability.
The CDC recommends that you know your concussion ABCs: Assess the situation; Be alert for signs and symptoms, and Contact a health care provider. It's important to remember that your child should not return to sports or recreation activities until he or she is evaluated by a health care provider experienced in treating concussions.
Rest is critical for the treatment of a concussion - the brain needs time to repair itself. Often athletes experience no symptoms after a few days. But headaches, nausea, and other problems may return from plunging back into sports too soon.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.
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American Academy of Family Physicians - Concussion in Sports
American Academy of Pediatrics - Boxing Participation by Children and Adolescents
CDC - Concussion and Mild TBI