One in 5,000 Pro Boxing Bouts End in Death by Brain Injury

One in 5,000 pro boxing bouts end with a fighter dying from brain trauma. A shocking statistic. But one recently published by the the Association of Ringside Physicians in their Journal of Combat Sports Medicine.

In the study, titled “Mortality Resulting From Head Injury In Professional Boxing Revisited” the physicians reviewed reported worldwide mortalities from head injuries in pro boxing from 2000 – 2019. These deaths were taken from the Manuel Velazquez Boxing Fatality Collection. The qualifying entries were verified using BoxRec. The included fatalities where then analyzed with other variables including age, year of death, whether the bout ended in KO or TKO, result of bout, number of rounds, weight class, location of bout and more.

The study found that 84 of the reported deaths met their inclusion criteria (pro boxing deaths from in ring brain trauma). According to BoxRec 428,904 bouts took place during 2000-2019. Leading to an “incidence of approximately one brain-related fatality per 5,000 bouts“.

When looking at the other variables in play the physicians concluded as follows:

  • The mean age of the boxer at the time of death was 26 years old
  • Fatalities seem to have decreased from 2000-2009 to 2010-2019
  • 41.67% of the deaths were following a knockout
  • 34.52% of the deaths followed a TKO
  • About 1/3 of the KO/TKO deaths occured in the last scheduled round of the bout
  • A higher prevalence of fatalities occurred at the lower weight classes

Commenting on deaths occurring more in later rounds and at lower weight classes the authors opined as follows

It is reasonable to infer from this trend that repetitive head blows over the course of a bout may be a more significant risk factor for traumatic brain injury than one big KO punch…Weight classes 135 lbs and lower continue to have a higher incidence in fatality than the heavier weight classes…it is thought by some that dehydration decreases cerebrospinal fluid and brain volume, creating a situation for a greater chance of TBI. Lighter weight class boxers in general tend to cut a higher percentage of body weight – potentially placing than at a higher risk for TBI

The full study can be found here.

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