Boxing and Kickboxing

01 Overview

Boxing is an Olympic Sport for both men and women. The most common injuries in boxing occur to the head, arms, and low back. Kickboxers will also sustain lower body injuries. While there is risk for physical injury in boxing, there is strong evidence that these injuries can be prevented.

(see Section 04 - Prevention)
Athlete silhouette
View Common Injuries by clicking the blue dots on the silhouette

In boxing, the head, including the face and neck, is the most common location of injuries. Concussions make up many of the head injuries. In kickboxing, the head is the most commonly injured part of the body, regardless of skill level or experience.

Arm injuries account for a number of boxing injuries, many of which involve the hand or wrist.

Low back injuries are more frequently sustained by amateur boxers than by professionals.

In kickboxing, the lower leg represents a large proportion of injuries.

02 Injury Statistics

Female boxers have an injury rate of 8.9 injuries per year while males have a rate of 13.3 injuries per year. Based on injury reports from professional boxing, it is estimated that between 17.1 and 23.6 injuries are sustained per 100 fights. In both professional and amateur kickboxing, it is estimated that 4 injuries occur for every 100 minutes of participation.

Curious about the research on injuries?

It is estimated that...

View Summary of Incidence Rates

03 Risk Factors

Characteristics that might increase the risk of injury in boxing include: frequency of matches, match outcome, weight class, competition level, and sex. The influence of these characteristics may vary between amateur and professional boxers.

  • Frequency of Matches

    Boxers who fight more often have an increased risk of injury.

  • Weight Classes

    Kickboxers in the heavy weight class have nearly twice the risk of injury as those in the light weight class, and a 50% higher risk of injury than those in the middle weight class.

  • Sex

    Males are 1.8 times more likely to be injured in kickboxing than female participants.

  • Match Outcome

    The boxer who loses the match is more than twice as likely to sustain an injury as compared to the winner. The kickboxer who loses the match has a nearly three and a half times higher risk of injury than the winner. Matches that were ended as the result of a knockout or a technical knockout had more than five times the injury rate than those that did not.

  • Competition Level

    Professional kickboxers have over twice the risk of injury as amateur kickboxers.

View Summary of Risk Factors

04 How can I prevent injury?

Some muscle soreness or joint pain is expected when increasing your level of physical activity. It is important to listen to your body for persistent or worsening pain, and to know when to rest. Learn more about how to prevent injuries in boxing.

  • Participant & Parent

    Talk to your coach or organization about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Education

    Promote safe participation in boxing by increasing your knowledge about the rules of boxing and fair play.

    In the past, there have been some rule changes that have counteracted the positive effects on safety created by some previous rules. By acknowledging this, studying the effects of each rule change, and ensuring that the motivation behind changing a rule is in the best interest of your safety (rather than scoring), you can reduce your risk of injury.

    Learn more from Boxing Ontario’s injury prevention information and injury management program.

    Equipment

    Use safety equipment such as headgear, hand protection, and mouthguards. The quality and fit of the equipment affects its ability to prevent injury. Headgear reduces the incidence of facial lacerations during amateur boxing bouts; some models provide cheek coverage. No standards currently exist for boxing headgear.

    Managing Concussion

    As concussions account for many of the head injuries in boxing, it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if a concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for participants and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Due to the physical demands of boxing, some athletes sustain shoulder and back injuries. Adopt strength training exercises specifically designed to prevent injuries to the shoulder and back.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of injury. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to boxing.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view video and poster.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Sport-related Physicals
    Boxing is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Coach & Teacher

    Talk to your organization or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Education

    As a coach, you play an important role in reducing the risk of injury to your athletes.

    In the past, there have been some rule changes that have counteracted the positive effects on safety created by some previous rules. By acknowledging this, studying the effects of each rule change, and ensuring that the motivation behind changing a rule is in the best interest of the participant’s safety (rather than scoring), you can reduce the risk of injury to boxers.

    You can assist in preventing injuries by keeping your athletes up to date on the current rules and ensuring that the rules are in the best interest of the safety of the athletes competing.

    Learn more from Boxing Canada’s National Coaching Certification Program Policy and Procedures manual, Boxing Ontario’s injury prevention information and injury management program.

    Equipment

    Encourage your athletes and their parents to obtain the appropriate equipment with the right fit to help to prevent injury in boxing, such as headgear, hand protection, and mouthguards. The quality and fit of the equipment affects its ability to prevent injury. Headgear reduces the incidence of facial lacerations during amateur boxing bouts; some models provide cheek coverage. No standards currently exist for boxing headgear.

    Managing Concussion

    As concussions account for many of the head injuries in boxing, it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if a concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for coaches and teachers to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Due to the demands of boxing, your athletes may sustain shoulder and back injuries. Your athletes will benefit from exercises specifically designed to prevent injuries in these regions. Your team can complete these exercises as part of their strength training routine.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the shoulder and back. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of injury. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to boxing.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view video and poster.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Sport-related Physicals
    Boxing is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Official & Administrator

    Talk to your coaches, teachers, organization, or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Education

    Ensure that education programs regarding equipment and rules are not just directed at the participant but at their parents, coaches, and league officials as part of promoting safe habits. In the past, there have been some rule changes that have counteracted the positive effects on safety created by some previous rules. By acknowledging this, studying the effects of each rule change, and ensuring that the motivation behind changing a rule is in the best interest of the participant’s safety (rather than scoring), you can reduce the risk of injury to boxers.

    Encourage coaches to keep their athletes up to date on the current rules and ensure that the rules are in the best interest of the safety of the athletes.

    Ensure referees are familiar with the current rule system and any changes that were made during the off-season. Support referees to make consistent decisions regarding when to let play continue, when to stop play, or call a penalty, to help the boxers learn when their actions may cause an injury. Support the year-to-year recertification of officials (referees).

    Learn more from Boxing Canada’s National Coaching Certification Program Policy and Procedures manual, Boxing Ontario’s injury prevention information and injury management program.

    Equipment

    Ensure athletes use the appropriate equipment with the right fit to help to prevent injury in boxing, such as headgear, hand protection, and mouthguards. The quality and fit of the equipment affects its ability to prevent injury. Headgear reduces the incidence of facial lacerations during amateur boxing bouts; some models provide cheek coverage. No standards currently exist for boxing headgear.

    Managing Concussion

    As concussions account for many of the head injuries in boxing, it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if a concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Due to the demands of boxing, athletes may sustain shoulder and back injuries.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of injury. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to boxing.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view video and poster.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Sport-related Physicals
    Boxing is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Health Professional

    The role of health professionals in preventing boxing and kickboxing injuries has two main components:

    1. Providing ongoing education to participants, parents, and coaches on effective injury prevention programs such as balance and resistance training; and
    2. Ensuring that injured participants are completely healed and fit-to-perform before returning to boxing and kickboxing to prevent re-injury or chronic injury.

    Managing Concussion

    As concussions account for many of the head injuries in boxing, it is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if a concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of injury. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to boxing.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view video and poster.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Sport-related Physicals
    Boxing is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information about preparticipation physical evaluation.

    Learn more about Preparticipation Physical Evaluation.

    Equipment

    Encourage athletes, parents, teachers, coaches, and officials to obtain the appropriate equipment with the right fit to help to prevent injury in boxing, such as headgear, hand protection, and mouthguards.