Can Boxing Cause Brain Damage? (Answered In Detail)

Boxing is a martial art that has become increasingly attractive worldwide because of its competitive nature. However, statistics show that there are boxers with different severity of injuries every year, which may sound frightening to some people.

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Usually, our upper body is the part that is mainly exposed when fighting, explaining why people have been wondering “Can boxing cause brain damage?” Read until the end to clear your query and grasp some essential information about this competitive sport.

Can Boxing Cause Brain Damage?

Yes, boxing can cause brain damage to boxers, but the degree of injury may vary. According to statistics from the Association of Neurological Surgeons, 90% of both professional and amateur boxers suffer brain damage once in their profession, with different levels of severity. Approximately, there are 13 cases of fighters died after insurmountable injuries. 

The reasons why boxers get brain injury during practice and competition are easy to understand. When one hits their opponent’s head with his hand, the brain will collide with the skull and cause temporary pain. These pains are a sign of brain cells being attacked and destroyed. 

Overview Of Brain Damage

As pointed out above, the leading cause of brain damage is the exposure of the brain and the skull. Thus, during the competition, punches become the main factor of brain injury. 

Anyway, do you know the benefits of their fighting gloves? It’s not used for minimizing the pain on the opponent’s face. Instead, its main purpose is to protect the wearer’s hands, so they can keep punching with strong force without being hurt. Consequently, the opponent can quickly suffer from a severe brain damage if he doesn’t know how to defend effectively.

There are two most fatal positions in boxing: The chin and behind the ear. When the chin is hit, your head will be subjected to a strong force and rapid acceleration, leading to a feeling of shock. At that time, your brain is heavily impacted by a concussion. 

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The same thing happens when hitting behind the ear. Since the skull behind the ear is not as thick as other areas, a sudden punch will cause the opponent to lose consciousness immediately.

Long Term Effects Of Boxing On The Brain

The most apparent consequence of brain injury is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). As defined by Dr. Wedro, this is a disease in which the brain functions deteriorate due to repeated trauma over a long period. This case often happens to boxers after many years of competition. Initially, the disease will have less severe symptoms such as disorientation, confusion, dizziness, and headaches. 

Later, when the disease progresses, the patient becomes aggressive and psychotic due to the decline in intelligence. They may also have difficulty walking and talking. The symptoms of CTE only get worse and worse and cannot be stopped.

Several other studies have also demonstrated that the long-term effects of boxing on the brain lead to some severe consequences such as brain atrophy, Parkinson’s, mental disturbances, and even early death.

How To Avoid Brain Damage In Boxing? 

The above information has helped you answer the question “can boxing cause brain damage” pretty clearly. And indeed, boxing will remain an attractive sport if there are precautions to maintain the safety of participants and assist them in avoiding brain damage.

Below are the 3 most common methods to minimize the risk of brain injury:

  • Use 16 oz gloves: this is a large and quite heavy glove. If the participants use this, the punches will not be able to use 100% of the force because the weight of the gloves prevents them. Furthermore, this type of glove has inner padding.
  • Use mouthguard: this type of support device will be worn in the mouth to reduce the impact of punches to the chin. When they bite down on the mouthguard, their jaw muscles will contract and help them eliminate lethal forces. 

  • Train your neck: A neck that is not strong enough will not reduce head movement when the punches come. So, keep training and practicing regular exercises for a firm neck. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. Is the advice not to use headgear correct?

There are wrong assumptions about the role of headgear in boxing matches. It may seem to protect the head. However, it can also increase the possibility of brain damage. 

Why? Headgear makes the head look big and heavy, and it accidentally makes the head an easy target. 

Furthermore, wearing headgear brings the feeling of safety, so the wearers may not be cautious enough while fighting. Another disadvantage of this supportive equipment is that they prevent the participant’s view.

  1. How to train the neck?

Don’t underestimate the strength in your neck. Studies about players in sports show that the likelihood of injury is inversely proportional to the power of the neck. 

So if you are looking for a way to stay safe and increase your fighting ability, it will be good to practice hard. Exercises with resistance bands are the most common types that boxers often practice at home. Or, if you’re worried about how bad posture affects your body, see a professional and ask for their opinion.

For more information, refer to this video: Neck Strengthening for Boxing | Absorb Punches Better


The article “Can boxing cause brain damage” above has summarized all the necessary information to help you answer “Can boxing cause brain damage?” Hope this will be useful for those who are starting to play boxing. 

Should you have any other suggestions, please leave us a comment. Finally, don’t forget to revisit us for more valuable tips and explanations.

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