Female boxing is no more dangerous than any other female impact sports. That is the encouraging conclusion of a new survey from Italy, where female boxing has been permitted since 2001 but is still regarded as ‘an experimental sport’ (‘Medical survey of female boxing in Italy in 2002-2003’, Br J Sports Med 2005;39:532-536).
The survey of all female boxing competitions in Italy between January 2002 and October 2003 was made up of two elements:
In the retrospective part of the survey, 645 boxers (97.1%) were found to have no noteworthy lesions after their fights. The remaining 19 boxers showed some injuries, with mild soft tissue facial lesions, nosebleeds and hand-wrist problems being the most common.
No lesions to the breast area were found, nor were there any reports of abdominal or pelvic problems related to fighting. During competition and in the days following, no boxers reported acute symptoms or severe conditions requiring hospital admission.
Similarly, no major lesions were reported from the prospective study. Two benign tumours and one ovarian cyst were found – with no suggestion that these were caused by boxing.
One boxer was referred to a neurologist with non-specific electroencephalographic (EEG) abnormalities, which persisted after six months and led to her suspension; another, who showed neurological symptoms after a fight suspended for medical reasons, was subsequently discharged as normal.
No major eye injuries were reported, but slight deviation of the nasal septum was quite common, affecting 19 (68%) of the boxers studied – a higher prevalence than in the age-matched general population (40%).
‘We have recorded no acute or severe events’, conclude the researchers. ‘Moreover, we have not observed any conditions of the reproductive system or the breast that can be attributed to boxing… Furthermore, anomalies of the nervous system, the eye, ear, nose and throat seem to have the same prevalence as in the age-matched general population, or in male boxing.
‘The general picture of Italian female boxing that emerges is that it entails much the same risks as any other female sports in which opposing players share an arena and impacts occur either intentionally or as the results of the competition (soccer, hockey etc). Therefore female boxing should now be able to rid itself of the label of “experimental sport” in Italy and find its way to becoming an official sport.’