[Image description: three different slices of brain tissue. 1. a healthy brain. 2. a football player’s damaged brain. 3. a boxer’s very damaged brain.]
Before you read this blog post, you might want to watch this youtube video for context (10 times boxers have killed in the ring).
My father was a boxer who taught me how to bash the shit out of other kids I disagreed with. I first did it at about the age of 6 or 7. The poor kid, though bigger than me, didn’t stand a chance. Dad has taught me to move my feet, guard by head and body, and, most importantly feint in order to set up a knockout punch or volley of punches that would disable someone.
By the time I was 12 he had taught me how to handle even bigger kids who I disagreed with – sneak up quietly behind them, tap them on the shoulder, and wait for that critical moment when their jaw came into sight. Then you landed the biggest sucker punch possible. I’ve broken my fist. I’ve got scars on my hands from other kids teeth, and I’m lucky not to have killed anyone. I’ll have more to say about that one day.
Aged 15 I was faster and better at it and I was convinced of my god-given right to bash people who I judged “deserved” it. One deranged veteran of the Second World War in the jungles of Papua New Guinea taught me and a group of kids in a martial arts class how to silently and efficiently break the spine of an “enemy”. It wasn’t pretty, but by that age I was beginning to wonder about violence, boxing and martial arts.
Fortunately I met a feminist at uni who calmed me down and then I met my wife Joanna who is still helping me unlearn some of the shit I learned as a kid.
Which brings me to boxing, the idea of making money via “charity” boxing and the idea that teaching kids to fight will help them grow into nice humans. Really dumb ideas for lots of reasons.
In 2011 I wrote to the government-funded Southern District Health Board (SDHB) about their use of boxing to raise funds via their appalling Fight for Kidz. I asked them to stop this type of fundraising.
I told them that an autopsy had just been done as requested by the American footballer Dave Duerson who had killed himself. The autopsy found his brain riddled with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). This is the brain injury people suffer in violent “sports” and in other sports such as soccer (heading the ball).
Dave killed himself carefully to preserve his brain. He texted his family that he wanted his brain examined for CTE.
The SDHB refused my request.
The medical literature is full of deaths from boxing, including if wearing boxing helmets. The American Medical Association has called for a ban on boxing saying it is an “obscenity” that “should not be sanctioned by any civilized society.”
The British, Canadian and Australian Medical Associations have also called for bans on boxing.
But the Southern DHB equates this barbaric practice with “helping” disadvantaged kids. That is disgusting in the extreme.
This New York Review of Books article on collision sports shows the economic interest in hiding the truth – and it’s written by a huge fan of one of these “sports”.
Mild traumatic brain injuries are also a signature injury of war via explosion shock waves. Damage is concentrated in the cerebellum in brain images from blast-exposed combat veterans. [This ScienceMag link may require you to sign up for free – but it’s well worth the effort.]
My father was a boxer. He died of cancer. But who can say his cancer was totally unrelated to boxing? Before he died he made me promise I would never box. And if you think you should continue in your “sport” after concussions and doctors say stop, then stop.