Boxing as Exercise: Perspectives from a Ringside Physician
World wide, female boxers of all ages dedicate themselves to training but were never allowed to be contenders in the Olympics. This will all change this weekend, when women will box in the Olympics for the first time. In spite of all the critics, it is only fair that they be allowed to show the fruits of their labor and compete on the world stage.
As a ringside physician and medical director for the USA Boxing Metro, a local sanctioning body for amateur boxing in New York, I’m familiar with what it takes to be successful in boxing—like all sports, it requires an extreme amount of discipline. Often times, the most exciting part about boxing is to see the final product of all the sacrifice and commitment. Boxers are full of hard work and dreams, with many of them escaping poverty and literally fighting their way to success. The story usually involves a coach introducing them to boxing and turning them away from a life of crime. There is nothing like seeing these elements come together during competition. One of the 2012 Olympians, Marcus Browne, is from Staten Island, NY. I can’t describe how thrilled I am to see him fulfill one of his dreams.
Not only is boxing exciting to watch, but it also offers huge cardiovascular benefits. The combination of punching and moving nonstop for three-minute rounds burns more calories than many other activities. Most individuals who box for conditioning also enjoy the obvious stress relief from punching a bag.
As with all contact sports, injuries can easily occur in boxing. When it comes to differences in injuries in male and female boxers, there is no clear evidence that females have different injures than their male counterparts, other than potential breast trauma for which most female boxers wear protection. In all boxers, the most common site for injury is the hands, where tendons, bones and cartilage damage can shorten a career. One common boxing injury is a metacarpal boss, an injury to the hand that occurs when force transmitted through the knuckles and metacarpal bones can cause destabilization of the wrist bones. Diagnosed early, it can be treated conservatively with rest, splints, oral and injectable anti-inflammatory medication. More severe cases require surgery.
Most boxing injuries heal with conservative measures. Simply taking time to rest and avoiding “fighting through” the discomfort will solve many problems. Since there are boxing events all year round, a boxer can take time off without the penalty of having to wait for the next season.
So whether you’re a boxing fan or are interested in boxing as a fitness activity, I hope you find the boxing matches at the Olympics to be inspiring and entertaining, especially as female boxers make their mark on Olympics history.
Dr. Osric King is a sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery. In addition, he serves as a ringside physician and is the current medical director for the USA Boxing Metro, a local sanctioning body for amateur boxing in New York. Dr. King is also a former medical director for the New York State Athletic Commission.