Although some regard boxing as less dangerous than other contact sports, by the sheer nature of the sport, the intention is to cause damage to the opponent.
Nevertheless, boxing attracts millions of viewers worldwide regularly, with many taking it up to improve their physical and mental condition. Even though competing boxers are in the shape of their lives to compete at the top, injuries are going to happen.
The entire journey from novice to professional is bound to be challenged by some of the common boxing injuries that we explore in detail.
Common Boxing Injuries — Acute Injuries
Acute problems are common in boxing since of the impactful nature of the sport as well as the point of contact points. Common acute boxing injuries include:
- Cuts, bruises, a broken nose and broken bones in the facial region.
- Bennett fracture.
- Hand fractures.
- Risk of concussion.
- Wrist sprain.
- Finger sprain.
- Damage to middle finger knuckle (Boxer’s knuckle).
Cuts, Bruises, Broken Nose and Broken Bones in the Facial Region
The most common boxing injuries in the facial region consist of cuts and bruises, mainly from the impact of the opponent’s glove repetitively on the face. These are more common if a head guard isn’t used. Accidental impact with the opponent’s elbows, shoulders and head can also create acute superficial damage.
Cuts need to be stapled, taped or stitched as soon as possible to rule out infection. The sooner they’re attended to, the less the risk of scarring on the face. You’ll see the trainers attend to such injuries between rounds in a fight; this is to prevent the situation from worsening during the fight and to prevent any long-term damage.
A more severe injury such as a fracture needs to be ruled out as soon as possible, too. The most common boxing fractures are to the nose, cheekbone and eye socket. If a fracture is suspected, then it is essential to get to a hospital for an assessment and n x-ray.
A Bennett fracture is a fracture at the base of the thumb. This is usually accompanied by a dislocation of the thumb joint and can result in reduced use of the thumb and poor alignment. Boxers need to be careful here since if they don’t let the joint recover, osteoarthritis may set in.
Gloves soften the chance of a Bennett fracture significantly; however, not using gloves in training can increase the risk of damage.
A wrist fracture generally occurs if a fighter falls awkwardly on the rest. Immediate pain is usually felt here, and visual deformity is noticeable. Weakness in the wrist can occur over time due to the impact shock moving through the wrist from the fist.
If a fracture is suspected, a scan needs to be carried out to confirm a fracture or a sprain. Fractures need immobilization and a cast to heal properly. If not dealt with properly, a lack of mobility and arthritis can occur. Sprains are less severe and need rest and cold compresses.
Boxers can also suffer from a carpal fracture, which is not as easily seen by the naked eye as it does not become deformed as the wrist fracture. If suspected, then it needs to be checked out by the hospital to decide what treatment is necessary for a full recovery.
Damage To The Middle Finger — Boxer’s Knuckle
Boxer’s knuckle is an injury sustained by the knuckle of the middle finger when boxing. This is a common injury since the middle knuckle is the most protruded when a fist is made.
Risk of Concussion
A concussion occurs when the head takes a knock or a similar injury when the head is thrown backward or forwards with force, causing the brain to be shaken.
The blow would more than likely be on the head or the surrounding area but can result from an impact on another part of the body. A body shot would need to have a huge amount of force to cause a concussion in boxing.
Fainting is not necessarily a sign of concussion; the symptoms are much more profound::
- Poor coordination.
- Slurred speech.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Dizziness and poor balance.
- Blurred and/or double vision.
- Seeing “stars.”
- Ringing noises
Other symptoms range from confusion, loss of consciousness, and lack of understanding short commands to looking glassy-eyed.
There’s no specific treatment for concussion, with rest being the most important. A reduction in the use of mental and motor functions is advised; however, a treatment plan is tailored to the individual symptoms by the medical professional.
Common Boxing Injuries — Muscular Injuries
Boxing involves consistent and compound use of muscle groups. Although boxers are exceptionally fit individuals, the following injuries are common:
- Dislocated shoulder.
- Permanent back and/or neck pain.
- Achilles tendinopathy.
- Muscular strains.
The shoulder has the most significant amount of movement of any joint in the body.
When the shoulder is dislocated, it cannot be moved without a great deal of pain and can only be manipulated by an osteopath or the hospital. After manipulation and the shoulder is back in place, the patient will feel residual pain for a few days.
Putting it back into place needs to be done post haste as there’s a chance that it may lead to a frozen shoulder, or worse becoming completely immobile.
Unfortunately, once it has been dislocated the chances of it happening again are increased.
Permanent Pain In The Back and Neck
Any part of the body that’s used and abused for a long time will develop aches and pains. It’s a normal part of excessive movement and the tendons, ligaments and joints wearing out.
With the constant movement required in boxing, as well as excessive use of the back and neck muscles to land blows and avoid them, it’s no wonder that back and neck pain are common boxing injuries.
Rest is an important treatment for recovering muscles; however, boxers need to keep mobile and alternate between ice and heat. An individual’s medical professional will be able to tailor a recovery program, but back and neck pain should be expected in time with boxing.
Achilles tendinopathy can occur after not recovering from an Achilles injury properly. Over time, small amounts of tears and damage can compound into this much more serious common boxing injury.
Boxers are constantly bouncing on the toes and balls of the feet for ease of movement and agility; therefore, the foot is in a constant state of flexion from the Achilles tendon.
An ultrasound or an MRI will reveal whether you have Achilles tendinopathy or not and will be arranged by your doctor. If you experience any pain in your Achilles area, seek medical help immediately since even a tear in the Achilles can cause long-term issues for boxers.
Because of the compound muscle groups used, muscular strains can occur anywhere. However, the most common strains occur in the shoulders, neck, back, knees, calves and feet.
For example, moving from side to side dodging opponents’ blows means amplified use of the calves and feet, and so can also carry the risk of calf strain or cramp. Both are quite simple to recover from, but rest is important. Quick movements could strain the muscles in the back; a hard punch that sends the head back and to the side can strain the neck muscles and also the shoulders.
To try and avoid the risk of strains, make sure that a good warm-up routine is established.
Can Common Boxing Injuries Be Avoided?
All contact sports carry some element of risk; even training with a punch bag carries its dangers. All you can do is try to reduce the amount of risk you take. Common boxing injuries hurt and may prevent you from pursuing your boxing career or improving your fitness.
There are measures you can take to help take the blows and roll with the punches. Wearing a head guard can protect the head from raining blows to the face, head and neck. Gloves are mandatory in fights, but consider using them more in practice, too. Don’t forget those hand wraps for added protection.
Make sure that you have a proper warm-up routine to warm the muscles and wear good-fitting footwear that supports the ankles and Achilles as much as possible.
Boxing is a sport to take seriously, and if you take steps to protect yourself as much as possible, it can be enjoyed without too much pain.