Older boxers should quit to save battered brains
Boxing is probably one of the only sports in which there is no “appropriate” age for a professional to retire.
Most pugilists continue their careers way beyond the age of 40 and are generally forced out of the square jungle by serious injuries.
Medical experts who spoke to City Press this week provided some insight into the lifespan of a prize fighter – and the consensus is that 35 is the right age to call it quits.
However, a close look at local boxing records clearly shows that many boxers disregard this suggested “retirement” age and continue to expose themselves to serious injuries (
Boxing SA (BSA) approval and sanctioning committee head Peter Ngatane said the Boxing Act stipulated that fighters should consider retirement at 35.
“But the law stipulates that if the boxer is fit enough to continue boxing, it is mandated by the law that he must undergo a neurological assessment, including a CT scan,” he said.
Ngatane also serves on the World Boxing Council’s medical panel.
He said if a fighter was older than the age limit and no longer performing well in the ring, the BSA could still recommend, through a medical committee, that the boxer’s licence be suspended.
According to Ngatane, the brain was the most sensitive part of the body and often exposed to injury. The solar plexus was another area that was susceptible to injuries, he added.
“If boxers do not defend themselves properly, they are then exposed to serious injuries in the ring. If they continue fighting beyond 35, then these injuries can become a problem later in life,” he said.
But Ngatane said nothing could be done to stop individuals from boxing, as their constitutional rights needed to be considered.
Cricket SA medical team member Dr Shuaib Manjra said there should be clear guidelines on when fighters should hang up their gloves.
“In boxing, unlike other sports codes, you induce concussion by landing blows on the head. This is dangerous, and fighters must retire timeously,” said Manjra.
He identified the jaws, eyes and head as the most sensitive parts of the body, often exposed to injury during bouts.
Dr John Fleming, a neurologist at Milpark Hospital and a World Boxing Association medical panellist, said: “The law says 35 is the right age to stop boxing. It’s a pity that some boxers continue way over that age limit.
“They risk sustaining serious brain injuries as a result of the head blows they absorb.”
Fleming has authored a punishment index, which is a boxing safety regulation manual in which ringside doctors can monitor the number of blows a fighter can absorb during a fight.
He has cautioned fighters to always protect themselves from being hit on the head.
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