Parents who allow their children to box should be reported to the authorities as child abusers, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged at its annual spring meeting last week.
Calling boxing a dangerous sport that leads to permanent brain damage and other serious injuries, the academy's sports medicine committee appealed to pediatricians to "report children who come in injured from boxing to the authorities as examples of suspected child abuse."
The legal definition of child abuse includes a clause that prohibits any deliberate injury that will "impair a child's physical or emotional health," said Dr. George Lundberg, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The goal in boxing is to "knock out your opponent," Lundberg said. Because of liability laws, parents must sign release forms saying that they are aware of the risks their children face in boxing. Technically that makes them "guilty of a form of child abuse," he said.
Approximately 17,000 children between 10 and 15 years old participate in the American Athletic Union's Junior Olympics boxing program. Imaging studies of the brain, using computer axial tomography (CAT) scans, show that these young boxers are likely to "suffer permanent brain damage from being knocked unconscious," said Dr. Paul Dyment, a member of the sports medicine panel. Even if boxers are not knocked out by repeated blows to the head, the studies found that they still experience "accumulated destructive" brain damage. And the head gear worn for protection actually "increases brain injuries," the academy said.
Since March 1984, the academy's position has been that "we should outlaw boxing," Dyment said, a position also advocated by the American Medical Association. Both groups also oppose full-body martial arts, the forms of karate, tae kwon do and judo that allow blows to the head.