Settling the brain damage debate

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by Timmy Boy, Sep 8, 2013.

  1. Timmy Boy

    Timmy Boy Man on a Mission

    I was searching the forums just now for threads on the old topic of brain damage from hard contact striking arts. Boxing is the obvious example, and perhaps I should have posted in that subforum, but I am also keen to hear data and authoritative opinions from practitioners of similar arts, such as Muay Thai.

    I think it's a given that repeated head trauma is not good for your brain and I'm not going to try to argue otherwise. Plenty of studies have shown this, if common sense is not enough. However, I think this is an issue of context.

    Here is my understanding of the debate:

    1) The British Medical Association say they want boxing banned because of the head injuries it causes.

    2) Defenders of boxing respond by pointing out that other sports, including rugby and football, have rates of head injury that are just as high, if not higher.

    3) The BMA respond by saying that those sports are different because those head injuries happen by accident, and the only reason boxing doesn't cause more is because boxers fight less often - but surely that's a moral argument, not a medical one? From a strictly medical standpoint, I don't see how intentionality is relevant. It sounds to me like they may be exceeding their remit by passing a moral judgment under the guise of an authoritative medical opinion.

    So, approaching the issue of head injuries from a purely medical standpoint, how bad is boxing (and other striking arts) really, in comparison to other sports?
  2. bigreddog

    bigreddog Valued Member

    Any hard head contact carries risk, the source doesn't matter. The question is how much you are prepared to accept.

    You should also balance the health benefits of activity vs the dangers of inactivity
  3. belltoller

    belltoller OffTopic MonstreOrdinaire Supporter

    'Exceeding their remit' is exactly the way things are done these days. Its the way agendas are met, cases are decided and is a unquestionably wonderful prosecutorial tool, especially of those individuals and institutions that are not formally on trial.

    Here it lies: Do you believe every member of the BMA believes this way, or would vote in favour of their organization taking up such a stance, if the given member were sat down and presented a scientific argument?

    Or are such positions as the one against boxing, taken by force, arm-twisting and other political shenanigans in the chambers of the upper echelon?

    Excellent thread you've started here, BTW
  4. Infesticon #1

    Infesticon #1 Majesticon

    Smoking is still legal (I smoke) but smoking hasn't been banned.
  5. Timmy Boy

    Timmy Boy Man on a Mission

    This is what I'm wondering - whether boxing (at least amateur boxing) is truly any worse than other sports for brain injuries. It seems to me that, if rugby is worse for brain injuries and none of us are worried about it, then there is no purely medical reason for us to fixate on boxing.

    I definitely agree with this, though I find the prospect of brain injury more scary than other ailments.

    What I suspect is that doctors, being in the business of protecting people from harm, are morally repulsed by the prospect of a sport in which one deliberately tries to hurt or injure another person, even if, in fact, you are more likely to suffer such an injury by accident in another sport; in other words, they oppose boxing primarily for emotional reasons, not science. I'm not saying whether I agree or disagree with that moral stance, but I don't think it should masquerade as a medical one if it's not.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2013
  6. belltoller

    belltoller OffTopic MonstreOrdinaire Supporter

    Their (medical scientists) stances should be based purely upon scientific merit, whether pro or con.

    BTW, my kids' doctors ( as well as their dentist ) as well as my own all gave resounding thumbs up when told they (we) took boxing lessons. Their pediatric dentist's own son competed heavily in boxing while in Uni.

    However, I get your point
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2013
  7. Timmy Boy

    Timmy Boy Man on a Mission

    Well, I wouldn't want to suggest that ALL doctors subscribe to the official stance of the BMA, particularly as I'm sure the fitness improvements help to stave off a whole load of other nasties.
  8. belltoller

    belltoller OffTopic MonstreOrdinaire Supporter

    ^ this
  9. Count Duckula

    Count Duckula Valued Member

    Isn't the thickness of the gloves also partly to blame? Sure, the things cushion the blow, but the amount of energy transferred to the skull is just the same. Only it is spread out and cushioned a bit, which means the chances of a KO decrease

    If the glove thickness would be less, the impact would still be the same but there would be higher chance of KO, is that correct?

    In that case, lighter gloves would be better because there would be a much quicker KO, which means that overall, the head gets less of a pummeling.
  10. Moi

    Moi Warriors live forever x

    I don't think that many people get that good for that long for any real damage to be relevant. Unless there's a preexisting problem whether known about or not, I doubt there's that many issues.
    The gloves being bigger are to prolong the fight. It's a show you know?
  11. Ero-Sennin

    Ero-Sennin Highly Skilled Peeper Supporter

    I find it strange that people associate boxing with head injuries enough to even consider banning it as a sport. While I currently am suffering a head injury from a boxing match the severity of it was more than likely a possible re-injury (which is horribly bad) from a previous experience on top of not knowing you can't push through a head injury like I initially did.

    Regardless of that I have seen multiple doctors ranging from neurologists to a team of people that work with a TBI clinic that I'm assigned to. Through every discussion about concussions/TBI the statistics they had, the sports they gathered all that data from, were hockey and american football (along with IEDs since I go to a Veteran Affairs hospital). We discussed boxing as well and my wife being there brought up severe mental illness due to head injuries in boxers to which the doctors response was, "that is extremely rare and unlikely."

    If the goal is to reduce head injuries, banning boxing isn't going to be the best sport to attack in order to reduce the occurrences of it. I'm willing to bet you wouldn't even see much of a change in head injury statistics honestly.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2013
  12. kernewek

    kernewek Valued Member

    The thing to remember here is that most doctors are not scientists. Medicine is a very big subject, so they have to know a lot of stuff, but they are generally not taught to think for themselves and they are (traditionally at least) not encouraged or given the time to study the evidence base or to question the status quo.

    I don't know about boxing and head injury, but in a lot of conditions the evidence base isn't strong enough to base policy on. That leaves policy vulnerable to 'expert opinion', assumption and politics.

    I am involved with a medical charity, and we see a lot of policy based on cherry-picked evidence and dogma.
  13. Unreal Combat

    Unreal Combat Valued Member

    Banning boxing isn't the answer. If they ban boxing then they may as well ban any other combat sport that allows head strikes.

    It will also just send it underground, where fighting is generally unregulated, which will run even more risk of serious injury.

    Maybe they should look to reduce the number of rounds in a fight.
  14. belltoller

    belltoller OffTopic MonstreOrdinaire Supporter

    You are so right. I should've said that doctors ought to look at the issue as medical scientists, rather as you've articulated here.
  15. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

    Whilst I wouldnt agree with all of what you say, (My wife is almost a consultant and always questions the status quo / me!) The BMA's view of contact sports actually comes from its ethics dept -

    Also currently I believe there in the middle of reassessing their viewpoint as their previous link no longer exists -

    and a search of boxing on their website shows no relevent articles -
  16. Late for dinner

    Late for dinner Valued Member

    I think that there are lots of questions still to be answered about injuries related to head contact. I believe jockey's incur a head injury in something like 1 out of 30 rides. I was at lectures with the FA a decade ago when they were looking at how Australian Rules and the Riding Association dealt with head injuries. Actually there was not enough real information. I think that evidence based medicine regarding concussion has only been going for about 15 years.

    That all being said there are a few things that people should remember.
    -you can't predict how big a hit will cause a head injury
    -you can't assume that the injury is cumulative (some have died at a young age without prior significant trauma)
    -there is little information about who will develop protein changes (Tau formation) in the brain and why

    I don't have a big thing against boxing but I would hazzard a guess that there have been more serious head injuries from boxing than rugby even with the relative small number of boxers. I believe that the first death from concussion in rugby here in the UK occurred last year in Northern Ireland. It does make a big difference whether you are talking about amateur or pro boxing (or even striking of what ever source in related arts - MT/MMA etc).

    Things to consider :' )

  17. Ero-Sennin

    Ero-Sennin Highly Skilled Peeper Supporter

    From what I've been told and read up on, cumulative concussions do not necessarily equal out to anything. It's not like you have a limit on concussions you can receive before you're brain dead.

    However, if you receive another concussion before the original concussion heals up, it can be especially traumatic to your brain and cause some pretty serious symptoms or permanent damage.

    On the boxing, I'm willing to bet you probably do see more serious (but not total volume of occurrences) head injuries because you can get a concussion and still fight, or you can be out on your feet and still get pounded on. It would be like breaking a bone and then having it kicked a few times before you can stop, the damage is going to be a lot worse.
  18. belltoller

    belltoller OffTopic MonstreOrdinaire Supporter

    I believe the AMA ( Yank equivalent to the BMA ) takes a similar stance, but I don't want to say for certain as I'm a lazy sod and have no time to research it.

    All posts here on the subject good reads so far.
  19. boards

    boards Its all in the reflexes!

    Rugby league in Australia has banned the shoulder charge this year due to the massive trauma it can cause if it goes wrong. I would actually expect League or Union to have bigger injuries than boxing due to the fact that you get 2 blokes weighing 110+ kgs charging flat out at each other to collide. And that only includes head injuries, ignoring all the shoulder, knee and ankle injuries that they receive. Many footballers end up with 3 or more knee reconstructions. I really don't think you can take an ethical stance against boxing and ignore all the other contact sports and most of them are far more popular than boxing is.
  20. righty

    righty Valued Member

    The difference between boxing and other sports is that head contact is encouraged and the main part of the game. Others such as various forms of football head contact is generally discouraged e.g. tackling around the head will be penalised.

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