Original Article

Injury Risk in Professional Boxing

Authors: Gregory H. Bledsoe, MD, MPH, Guohua Li, MD, DRPH, Fred Levy, MD, JD


Objective: Although a popular endeavor, boxing has fallen under increased scrutiny because of its association with traumatic brain injury. However, few studies have investigated the overall epidemiology of boxing injuries from representative samples, and no study has ever documented the incidence of injuries in female boxers. This study is a review of professional boxing data from the state of Nevada from September 2001 through March 2003.

Materials and Methods: Medical and outcome data for all professional boxing matches occurring in Nevada between September 2001 and March 2003 (n = 524 matches) were analyzed on the basis of a pair-matched, case-control design. Cases were boxers who received an injury during the boxing matches. Boxers who were not injured served as control subjects. Both conditional and unconditional logistic regression models were used to assess risk factors for injury.

Results: The overall incidence rate of injury was 17.1 per 100 boxer-matches, or 3.4 per 100 boxer-rounds. Facial laceration accounted for 51% of all injuries, followed by hand injury (17%), eye injury (14%), and nose injury (5%). Male boxers were significantly more likely than female boxers to receive injuries (3.6 versus 1.2 per 100 boxer-rounds, P = 0.01). Male boxing matches also ended in knockouts and technical knockouts more often than did female matches (P < 0.001). The risk of injury for those who lost the matches was nearly twice the risk for the winners. Those who lost by knockout had double the risk of injury compared with those who lost by other means. Neither age nor weight was significantly associated with the risk of injury.

Conclusions: The injury rate in professional boxing matches is high, particularly among male boxers. Superficial facial lacerations are the most common injury reported. Male boxers have a higher rate of knockout and technical knockouts than female boxers. Further research is necessary to determine the outcomes of injury, particularly the long-term neurologic outcome differences between sexes.

Key Points

* The overall incidence of boxing injuries was 17.1 per 100 boxer-matches or 3.4 per 100 boxer-rounds.

* Facial lacerations were the most common injury followed by injuries to the hand, eye, and nose.

* Although once rare, female professional boxing matches now make up almost 10% of professional matches in Nevada.

* Male boxers were significantly more likely to receive injuries compared with female boxers, and male boxing matches demonstrated a significantly higher rate of knockouts and technical knockouts compared with female boxing matches.

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