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Thursday, January 28, 1999 Published at 21:50 GMT


Boxing risk to children

Boxing promoters say more women and girls are taking up the sport

Doctors are planning to leaflets local authority schools and sports clubs in an effort to persuade children not to take up boxing.

The British Medical Association (BMA) is issuing thousands of leaflets to councils to pass to schools and sports clubs, warning of the dangers of sustaining brain injury.

But the Amateur Boxing Association has attacked the move, saying boxing can benefit children.

And former world heavyweight champion Henry Cooper said it would be "a shame" to ban children from the sport.

The BMA's leaflet, called Boxing packs a punch, says boxing causes brain damage by causing the brain to knock against the skull, harming blood vessels, nerves and brain tissue.

It also states that boxing can lead to brain haemorrhage, the leading cause of boxing deaths, as well as permanent sight and hearing loss.

And it says helmets may not protect against injury.

Threat to the brain

The BMA says boxing enthusiasts say children can learn how to channel their aggression through the sport.

But it argues that there are many other sports which can teach the same skills and do not post such a threat to the brain.

It is worried that schemes like Kid Gloves, a non-contact form of boxing, could lure children onto full boxing at a later stage.

The BMA wants local authorities to ban boxing on council-owned premises.

It says a recent survey shows that a third of local authorities give financial support to boxing, either by providing facilities for boxing clubs or giving grants to boxers.

A spokeswoman for the Association said: "Eventually we do want a ban on boxing, but we are aware that this is a question of winning the hearts and minds of the general public.

"We are particularly concerned about children and they do need to be protected.

"Children think they are immortal and don't really consider the risks of something like boxing, especially when it is long-term, cumulative brain damage - that is why we are issuing the leaflet.

"We want to try to turn children away from boxing and make it less easy for them to participate in the sport."

Unsuitable activity

BMA head of health policy Dr Vivienne Nathanson said: "We don't believe that children can make an informed decision about the dangers of boxing and I hope that local authorities will respond to our plea that boxing is a totally unsuitable activity for children."

The Local Government Association says it will consider the BMA's proposals, but adds that it is up to individual authorities to decide what to do about boxing.

Some local authorities have already refused to rent premises to clubs or fund boxers because of health concerns.

The boxing world is angry about the BMA's move.

A spokesman for the Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) said: "The BMA has been trying for years to ban boxing but they don't know what they are talking about. It is no more dangerous than a lot of other sports."

He added that boxing was growing in popularity, particularly among women.

"The public is on our side on this one," he said.

And Henry Cooper said boxing kept children off street corners and gave them something to do.

"Boxing is very controlled now. It's not a matter of being able to punch people without any discipline or rules.

Boxing has some great benefits but you can't tell those do-gooders at the BMA that.

"Where will it all end? You will end up with kids growing up wrapped up in cotton wool."

There are currently more than 3,000 registered boxers aged under 16 among the 600 clubs affiliated to the ABA.

Children can box competitively from the age of 11, once they gain their medical card.

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