15 Disadvantages and Risks of Boxing (Injuries, Dangers, and More)

While boxing, as a spectator sport, is loved in many countries, it is a dangerous sport that leaves competitors with a series of complications even after retiring from the ring. Boxing can be great for physical fitness, but you should know what the risks are before competing.

Some of the disadvantages and risks of boxing include brain damage, facial injuries, hand and wrist injuries, and possible blindness. People are more susceptible to neurological diseases and mental health disorders. Concussive symptoms like dizziness and confusion can occur even years after retiring.

The disadvantages of boxing go further than just physical risks. Let’s keep reading to find out more. 

1. Brain Damage.

Boxers suffer from brain damage more than most sport, due to how many blows to the head they get per match. With every blow to the head, boxers take the risk of damaging their brain tissues. As a result, nerve networks can tear, causing lesions, bruises, and large clots inside the brain. 

According to a study from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 90% of professional boxers experience different brain injuries throughout their careers. 

2. More Susceptible to Brain Diseases.

Retired boxers are more susceptible to brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Evidence shows that retired boxers’ brains have smaller volumes due to the many blows they received over their careers, causing the gray matter to be thinner. Also, the ventricles in the brain are enlarged, which decreases the white matter. 

3. Eye Damage.

The eyes are protected on the side by the facial bones, but when blows are sustained underneath the eyes, it can send shock waves up to the eyes in the fluids. The retina, lens, or other nerves can be damaged to the point of blindness. Additional damage may include, such as tear duct rupture and retinal detachment.

4. Mental Health Disorders.

You probably heard stories about former boxers ‘losing their mind’, showing severe signs of depression, aggressiveness, paranoia, and anxiety. These conditions are also known as “punch drunk” syndrome, which causes psychiatric and behavioral disorders. Experts believe this to be a result of repetitive concussive and sub-concussive blows to the head. 

5. Facial Injuries.

Aside from brain and eye damage, many boxers’ faces show signs of past cuts and lacerations. These occur because of how close the blood vessels are to the skin, and when the face is struck with a lot of force, they break and come out to the surface, making the scene look very dramatic. The recommended treatment at the ring is to treat the wound and stop further damage to the boxer.

6. Residual Concussive Symptoms.

Boxers may exhibit symptoms of concussions years after retiring from the ring, such as dizziness, headaches, loss of concentration, memory issues, and ringing in the ears. The cause of this is usually repeated blows to the head, but researchers claim that it may also occur because of psychological issues and age factors. 

7. Body Injuries.

Head injuries are the most dramatic injuries that come from boxing, but other bodily injuries occur from boxing. Bruises, of course, are the most common. Dental issues, such as broken teeth and bleeding gums, are also common. Boxers also frequently have broken ribs, dislocated shoulders, and internal bleeding. 

8. Hand Injuries.

While head injuries occur as a result of getting hit, hands also are one of the most susceptible to injury. The reason for this is obvious; hitting a solid object, like an opponent’s head or skull. For instance, a common hand injury happens when punching with the wrong technique (or landing the wrong way) and the fourth or fifth metacarpal beneath the knuckles on the hand breaks; this is known as a “Boxer’s Fracture.” Also, lumps can form on the back of the hand, leading to swelling and pain, as a result of using hands to continually hit the opponent. 

9. Early Death.

Many boxers have died in the ring from a particularly forceful blow to the head. Even if death doesn’t occur in the ring, if a head injury is severe enough, it can eventually kill the individual. Taking precautions to prevent this can work, but even when the sport is heavily regulated, it still happens. 

10. Financial Exploitation.

Many boxers are in the sport because there is nowhere else for them to go. Thus, unscrupulous managers and promoters will exploit the fighters for whatever amount of money they want. Many times, matches are negotiated in favor of the sponsors and not the boxers. For example, if a promoter’s son represents both fighters in a game, he may negotiate a deal that benefits his father rather than either boxer.

Lou DiBella, a former boxer, even said that “…respectable society doesn’t care” about the issues fighters go through because most of them today are either African-American or Latinos. So many of the problems go unnoticed by society and fans, and the exploitation continues unchecked.

11. Easily Manipulated by a Crime Syndicate.

Boxers get exploited by promoters and boxing managers, but they are easy targets for the crime syndicate to manipulate. During the turn of the last century, fighters were repeatedly told to “throw” the match so a crime boss could win money. Some boxers complied because they were unable to win a title fight without doing it. Quite often, the mob-controlled the outcomes of matches. 

12. Income Depends Too Much on Fights Outcome.

When boxers are continually at the top of their game and win match after match, they can get sponsorships and endorsements. But when they start losing matches, their income level goes down, and they start declining in popularity. Boxers need to defeat increasingly tougher opponents, and once they start declining, it’s quite challenging to come back. 

13. Boxing Regulations are Sometimes Ignored.

Boxing, like many other sports, has a union or association that promotes fair and honest competitions. However, while it’s true that there are rules for fair fights, these are sometimes ignored in the ring. Some people argue that since most boxers are of the minority class, the lack of regulation gets overlooked. 

On certain occasions, when a boxing match gets to the point where it needs to be stopped, referees don’t stop it, nor do the doctors who are present stop it. Then it often becomes too late.

14. Can Encourage Violence Outside the Ring.

Even though boxing is a sport, the main goal is to knock an opponent out to win the fight wins the match. But when a fighter is molded in the boxing environment, they may tend to bring that violence outside of the ring. 

15. Doesn’t Include Grappling.

While it may be true that a boxer would be more prepared to defend themselves when confronted on the street, they may not be able to do so in all situations. Boxers are not used to fighting while on the ground. Boxers are used to standing while fighting, so if they get taken to the ground, they may not be so good at defensive strategies. Also, most boxers don’t usually train using their legs to kick with, which may be needed in a defensive fight.

All Things Considered

Boxing may offer fitness and cardiovascular benefits, but so do other sports that are not so dangerous. Professional boxers are at risk for several injuries that can affect them for the rest of their lives.

The best way to avoid these injuries or other risks is not to get in the ring in the first place. However, using appropriate head and mouth gear and learning how to box correctly can also minimize these risks. Should you want to enter boxing professionally, you may want to do it as a side gig at first to see how it goes.