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Child Fighting: Experts fear boxing children risk brain damage


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This result isn't new, there is a lot of medical study about combat sports, martial art and well sports in general and risk of serious injuries and brain damage, amoung children and adults. A few years ago, I've read a medical review paper about a campaign "doctors against boxing".  In this paper doctors were litteraly asking for the ban of the sport, and saying that boxers shouldn't go to medical because basically they have choosen their "curse" (so if boxers are in pain, well, doctors wanted to have the choice not to treat them !!). It's a bit extreme ... 

I am not a parent, but I guess there is a nice compromise that can be done : practicing the sport but no actual fighting or competition (until certain age), enough rest days during the week, and good protection. Or maybe start with a sport than is "softer" or use more protections (judo, taekwondo?)?

I struggle myself with the whole idea of fighting. I love muay thai, and I love fighting, but we have one body, one life and one brain so when I do see fights without protections (no mouthpiece, no shinguard, no headgear and 8oz gloves) ... I wonder if it is worth the love and passion. I think at least headgear should be mandatory... too many friends of mine got concussions. I'm saying this but I usually don't wear protection myself ... should practice what I preach ... :/  

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Experts fear boxing children risk brain damage 

 

 link:http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1014717/experts-fear-child-boxers-risk-brain-damage. 

Some real issues and concerns on this topic ,being a father and muay thai fan I struggle with what is right.

thoughts?

I have a hard time with these articles, mostly because they seem to take an all-or-nothing moral stance that I just can't chew. I obviously don't condone kids being permanently injured due to negligence, nor do I believe that the concept of consent from children is an easy one. I make the choice to get in the ring and whether or not concussions pose a serious lifetime risk for me, but kids who play sports (all sports) don't have that kind of knowledge so it's meant to be up to adults to make those judgement calls.

Here's where I get annoyed though: the issue of children fighting seems to be a really classist one. We know that kids who compete heavily in gymnastics are at risk for bone issues, joint issues and stunted growth. We know that dedicated ballerinas are at higher risk for eating disorders and hip injuries that can keep them from dancing their whole lives or having recurring or permanent damage. But it's seen in these sports or arts as being part of the risk that comes from being so dedicated. Due to the attitudes about children fighting, these very same issues are not taken to be part of one's dedication to an "art." It's just seen as violence, which I'm sorry is bullshit. In the US we basically have subsidized incredibly high rates of concussion and head trauma for adult men, most of whom are from communities that are marginalized by our socio-economic structures, in the world of profession football. Do I find that to be be an ethical problem? Sure, yeah, that's shitty. But it's not a zero-sum game. You don't get rid of kids participating in sport due to risk of injury any more than you do away with adults taking part in activities that are potentially dangerous. Because kids don't have full consciousness of these risks, it's our job to minimize that risk or to take care of their health as best we can without becoming Draconian or overprotective. 

Ultimately I think it's best to keep it as an ongoing discussion between health professionals, researchers, parents and administrators of the sports/arts, and all of us. I don't think we gain anything by closing the book on the discussion by labeling the result "unethical" or simply as "damaging." These kids get incredible benefits out of their fights as well. It's not either/or. 

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It's great that studies like this are being conducted and it's sad that they found some damage.

I feel that as long as the kid wants to train and fight it should have a possibility to do that. The IQ thing I think is unrelevant because of the different lifestyles a kid that trains and a kid that doesn't have - or that's what I assume :D A kid who doesn't train is usually pushed more and more into studying, so they learn patterns to solve tests and stuff like that. A child that spends the minimal amount of time on learning will do things more spontanious and doesn't follow a "pattern", so it might not do as well on tests. 

It's an ethical issue, I agree on that. I might feel bad opposing someone who tells me kids shouldn't fight, because deep down I also don't want kids to hurt each other. But I also want them to have the freedom to do what they feel they want to do.

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 The IQ thing I think is unrelevant because of the different lifestyles a kid that trains and a kid that doesn't have - or that's what I assume :D A kid who doesn't train is usually pushed more and more into studying, so they learn patterns to solve tests and stuff like that. A child that spends the minimal amount of time on learning will do things more spontanious and doesn't follow a "pattern", so it might not do as well on tests.

 

I completely agree with this possible IQ testing concern, which is why not being able to read the paper itself, especially on the specified nature of the control groups, makes me worry about the broad conclusions that may be drawn, not only from the study but from article headlines like these.

From one excerpt I found this is how the subjects were described:

"We performed brain MR imaging with 3.0 T scanner in 323 pediatric boxers and 253 age-matched normal control subjects." - age matched? Were the IQ tested subjects only age matched?

Also mentioned were memory performance differences, which seems substantive.

What we are really left with mostly are these kinds of highly technical pieces of evidence, without qualitative conclusion:

Brain-scan.jpg

Brain-scan-2.jpg

Brain-scan-3.jpg

brain-scan-4.jpg

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I feel that as long as the kid wants to train and fight it should have a possibility to do that.

 

This of course is the crux of the entire ethical question. How much agency does a child have? How much agency does an economically limited child have? And how do we weigh that choice in the context where children work, in fields, in food stands, as part of the family, and can take pride in their contributions to the family.

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Totally agree with this. Discussion should be open in order to find the best way to minimize risk.

 Do I find that to be be an ethical problem? Sure, yeah, that's shitty. But it's not a zero-sum game. You don't get rid of kids participating in sport due to risk of injury any more than you do away with adults taking part in activities that are potentially dangerous. Because kids don't have full consciousness of these risks, it's our job to minimize that risk or to take care of their health as best we can without becoming Draconian or overprotective. 

Ultimately I think it's best to keep it as an ongoing discussion between health professionals, researchers, parents and administrators of the sports/arts, and all of us. I don't think we gain anything by closing the book on the discussion by labeling the result "unethical" or simply as "damaging." These kids get incredible benefits out of their fights as well. It's not either/or. 

 

Do you know more about the IQ test? I've looked into it a bit on internet, and although I don't know much about it, it doesn't seems revelant as you said. Because of different education/culture/etc. 
Also agree with you about freedom of choice for child, but I think they are not really aware or don't really understand the implication of such injuries ... then, it is responsible to let them choose? that the ethical problem I guess.

 The IQ thing I think is unrelevant because of the different lifestyles a kid that trains and a kid that doesn't have - or that's what I assume :D A kid who doesn't train is usually pushed more and more into studying, so they learn patterns to solve tests and stuff like that. A child that spends the minimal amount of time on learning will do things more spontanious and doesn't follow a "pattern", so it might not do as well on tests. 

It's an ethical issue, I agree on that. I might feel bad opposing someone who tells me kids shouldn't fight, because deep down I also don't want kids to hurt each other. But I also want them to have the freedom to do what they feel they want to do.

 

@Kevin, is this the article you are looking for ? here a full link : http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jmri.20656/full 
or maybe this one : http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3703661/pdf/nihms-486669.pdf

the brain scan you posted are from a poster, usually poster are presented before the actual study/article is published

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@Kevin, is this the article you are looking for ? here a full link : http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jmri.20656/full 

or maybe this one : http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3703661/pdf/nihms-486669.pdf

the brain scan you posted are from a poster, usually poster are presented before the actual study/article is published

 

The first link doesn't work for me, the second one is a 2013 paper but does not seem to be a study that Jiraporn Laothamatas is associated with. I'm really interested in the presentation that looks like it was given in May of this year by Jiraporn Laothamatas: "Advanced Diagnostic Imaging and fMRI of the Brain in Thai Pediatric Boxers". I suspect that that Symposium presentation is what produced the recent surge in articles.

This is the link to the brain images. Brain imaging is also found here in this June 16 (2016) presentation abstract which focuses on memory performance, with Laothamatas listed as an author. Here the control sample is simply described as "age matched".

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Well, duh, of course children who box risk a certain amount of brain damage. So do adults. And so do kids and adults who undergo practically any sport - if you partake in a sport you are at an increased risk of some sort of injury or other. If you ride horses, sooner or later you are going to be hurt (and by 'hurt' I mean an injury that requires medical intervention of some sort). Play football (soccer) or rugby: you are going to get hurt. Netball, rounders, golf, swimming - you can get hurt to a greater or lesser degree (my God, swimming yes - I've twice broken bones swimming! And no, I wasn't diving or doing anything daft!)

Kids (and adults) can suffer brain damage from playing any sport. The point is that of course certain sports are more risky than others in terms of head injury, but frankly in this life you pays your money and takes your choice. Obviously smaller children who perhaps can't fully comprehend the risks should always wear full protection, and only indulge in the sport if they really want to.

I personally don't have a problem with happy and willing kids practicing any high risk sport, provided that they are being taught correctly and with all reasonable safeguards in place (for example, if they are riding ponies, that the pony is of suitable temperament etc, there is a qualified instructor, the kid is learning in a proper environment, and is wearing suitable clothing and headgear etc etc etc). Boxing or any other martial art is just the same.

I do take the point that presumably some children in Thailand are earning money for their families by fighting, and so are obviously at greater risk of injury. But one also presumes that if the family needs the kid to be a breadwinner then fighting is probably one of less risky ways of him (or her) earning a crust. At least in fighting they have a chance of being a major success.

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  • 4 years later...

Re concussions in childrens sports.  It seems there are such dangers in many sports.  Muay, although that violent, is possibly NOT the worst among them.  (my personal impression is Muay has surprisingly low rate of serious damages, but its not scientifically).

 

I shall give ONE example.  Im often watching the sport of european handball, esp the teams in my town. Youth and adults.  the sport is quite popular, and also many girl teams.   I wont say its totally harmless, in almost every match there is somebody whom gets help to get off the plane, and rests a good while laying on the team bench.  But they are cheerfully taking on this.

 

OK, I mailed to a semi-friend,  active in this sport, player, parent, coach for a girls team, also member of directors board in the handball club in my town.  I wanted to tip her about the Lobloo groin guards.  These must be very useful for goal keepers, whom take lotsa of hard shorts into their body.  I mentioned of course, the Lobloo guards is extra excellent for girls and women, but they also do good guards for boys and men.

Swell.  But she responded and told me, their real problem is concussions.  They often fall down, often backwards, and hit the skull into the hard floor.  So there is some concussion almost every match....  And these whom end their carrier early, are often these whom got several concussions.

 

OK, I could help her to find a part solution.  I remembered, its very common ice skating girls use often a broad band on head.  I was always thinking it was a band for keeping the hair in place.  A popular whim in these circles.   Suddenly it dawned on me, it was perhaps  a protective device?  After some googling I found, it was correct. these band are cushioned, and they ARE a protective device, working reasonably efficiently against such falls on the ice  (or floor).

And using them in the handball wouldnt be no big deal. No extra difficulties, just the cost of buying them.  Let perhaps sponsors buy them?!

There are also leight weighs helmets of different construction.  Probably an overkill for the players, but surely useful for the goalies together with these groin guards.  Goalies do get many shots on them.  And also, there is a real danger of them crashing into the woodwork of the goal.  Even jump up into it if they are long or sporty enough...

 

I suppose these, esp the bands, could be used in Muay too, at least in the training and sparring.

 

 

Anyway, this about dangers.  When people are horrified kids in Muay fight without helmets.  The fear is more or less correct.  Even if it can be discussed if the helmets really help, or dishelp??

But its interesting to know, such a dangers are also in other sports, perhaps even really bigger dangers.  Even in such a popular sport seemingly very suitable for girlies,  as the european handball....

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