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March 10, 1989

Why Physicians Should Oppose Boxing: An Interdisciplinary History Perspective

JAMA. 1989;261(10):1484-1486. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420100120037

The pioneering studies in the 1920s by Harrison Martland, MD, of the physical effects of boxing are credited with initiating the medical debate on the sport.1 In strictly health-related terms, this is true. Since the appearance of Martland's work, numerous articles and reports have pointed to boxing's physical dangers.2(pp247-251) Nonetheless, significant numbers of physicians remain unconvinced by what they consider inconclusive evidence or flawed studies. Consequently, physicians have sent mixed signals on the sport's dangers and, intendedly or not, become promoters of an indisputably violent activity.3

Even before the tragic death of South Korean boxer Duk Koo Kim after a nationally televised championship fight against Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini in November 1982, the American Medical Association, troubled by the sport's obvious dangers, had commissioned a panel, under the auspices of its Council on Scientific Affairs, to investigate their extent and severity. As a result, the Council recommended