In the United Kingdom (UK), the British Medical Association (BMA) has campaigned for a ban on boxing since 1987. Reasons cited include the risk for brain damage, which could lead to both acute and chronic neurologic deficits. According to Bill O'Neill, MD, scientific adviser of the BMA, "Boxing is the only so-called sport in which it is possible to win by inflicting irreversible brain damage on your opponent. It is therefore offensive to the fundamental medical ethic of preventing harm" (p. 31). However, the position of the BMA would be reconsidered if the boxing authorities would agree to ban blows to the head. In the meantime, boxing "is no more a sport than bear-baiting or cockfighting" according to Dr. O'Neill, who is hoping for the nurses to take the same position as the physicians on this issue.
In 1996, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) rejected a resolution calling on nurses to join the BMA in its campaign to ban boxing. According to senior staff nurse Michael Hayward, "the boxing debate is quintessentially about democracy, freedom of choice, and the rights of the individual and describes the defeat of the BMA in 1996 as a celebration of nursing's liberalism, maturity, and objectivity." The RCN does not question the fact that boxing is dangerous. However, the college considers the true extent of neurological injury among boxers debatable, referring to the poor quality of existing studies addressing the issue.
Michael Hayward also highlights the fact that many other sports also are known to be associated with dangers. For example, 14 skull fractures caused by golf balls and clubs were reported from one neurosurgery unit in Glasgow during a 5-year period. He continues, "To attempt to ban a sport that dates back to 400 BC, which is regularly watched by millions of people worldwide and earns successful fighters a lot of money, is futile. The medical profession would do better to direct its energies into educating people as to the dangers of boxing and helping to improve safety guidelines for the sport, rather than destroying it."
In Sweden, professional boxing has been banned for several decades, the rationale being very much the same as that advocated by the BMA. Amateur boxing is allowed, however. This is a standpoint that I think most people in Sweden, including myself, are quite satisfied with, mainly because amateur boxing means shorter fights (3 rounds) and usually more guarding equipment as compared with professional boxing.
The question for the International Neuroscience Nursing Panel this month was: Is the issue of whether boxing should be banned a question of debate, and what are the opinions of the nursing and medical professionals in your country? What is your personal opinion?
[1.] Debate: Boxing should be banned. Nurs Times 1999; 95(21): 31.
I work in the area of pediatrics, and this subject is not something that we are confronted with very often. According to a representative of the New South Wales (NSW) Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) whom I spoke...
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