Boxing is a brutal sport, and injuries can be common. While knockouts are perhaps the most obvious form of boxing injury, there are plenty more ways you can get injuries from breaks and strains to other types of injury such as dehydration and tears.
Here we’ll not only look at the most common injuries but what you can do to prevent or reduce their impact. By the end, you should have all the information you need to protect yourself as best you can in the ring. Let’s get started with the most obvious boxing injury.
12 Most Common Boxing Injuries and How to Prevent Them
Concussions are the most serious injury in boxing, mainly due to their potential long-term implications. These can be caused by one severe blow to the head (which often results in a knockout) or from repetitive blows.
Symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness, among others. Constant blows to the head can result in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is why it’s vital to lessen the chance of concussions and consider early retirement for those that have taken a lot of punishment.
Apart from improving your skills, there is little you can do to stop being punched in the head during fights, but there are plenty of things you can do to reduce the chance of concussions at other times.
In sparring, larger gloves should be used which softens the impact of punches and decreases their severity. Sparring at full intensity should be kept to a minimum, and you should stop if you feel dizzy. As for head headgear, there is a debate as to whether or not it actually reduces the chance of concussion.
If you do get concussed in sparring or a fight, make sure that you take time off to fully recover. And never be too proud to throw in the towel if you can no longer defend yourself.
Most concussion symptoms clear up in a week or two, but for others, it can be much longer. You can return to cardio or bag training, but it is absolutely vital that you don’t take another punch until you’re completely symptom-free. On a list of boxing worst injuries, concussion will always come out top, so you can’t be too careful.
2. Hand Injuries
While concussions are the most serious boxing injury, hand injuries are probably the most common. This makes sense, as punching repeatedly is going to hurt your hands, especially for boxers that are new to the sport. Fractures and dislocations can be common, but you may also experience general hand pain.
Even the best fighters can struggle with hand injuries but by far the best way to protect them is with proper hand wrapping. Another good way to protect your hands is by using larger gloves when sparring and hitting the heavy bag.
Recovery from common boxing hand injuries such as a fracture or dislocation should take around 4 to 6 weeks. On your return to boxing, make sure you start off light to build up your resistance before returning back to full punching power. Boxer’s knuckle healing time is around 3 to 4 weeks.
3. Wrist Injuries
This is effectively the same deal as hand injuries. In your wrist are a lot of bones, ligaments, and tendons. After a heavy punch, a lot of force goes through them. This is why wrists are commonly sore after a heavy pad or bag session.
As mentioned above, hand wrapping is your first line of defense. However, it’s vital to learn proper punching technique and punch straight. If you punch out of alignment, then fractures can easily happen. You may also develop carpal boss, which is a bony growth at the back of the wrist.
Wrist injuries from boxing such as fractures generally take longer to heal than hand injuries, as it can take two to three months to fully heal. With common boxing wrists injuries such as wrist tenderness and swelling, you’ll be fine after a few days of ice and heat treatment.
There are a few ways you can get cut in boxing. Sometimes it’s being caught on the shaper parts of a glove, but usually, it’s just from the sheer force of a punch or boxing accident such as a head clash.
While the effectiveness of headgear is debatable for concussions, it’s brilliant at preventing boxer cuts, which is why it’s a great idea to wear in sparring. Use petroleum jelly to make your skin is more slippery, and check your opponent’s gloves before sparring/fights.
Recovery time can depend hugely on the severity of a cut. Most cuts in boxing will heal up in a week or two, but a huge gash around the eyebrow, for example, may take a few months to completely heal up.
5. Facial Injuries
Aside from cuts, there is a wide range of injuries that can occur to the face. They can be as simple as bruises and swelling or as serious as broken orbital bones and broken teeth.
Wearing headgear in sparring is a sensible precaution to take. In fights, however, these types of injuries are very difficult to avoid. Just make sure you’re well prepared for a fight, such as applying petroleum jelly and wearing a bespoke mouthguard.
Recovery will depend on the severity of the injury. Swelling and bruises are usually gone within two weeks. More serious facial injuries may require a few months of recovery before you can risk taking punches again.
6. Rib Injuries
Broken ribs aren’t as common as many people may think in boxing. That’s probably due to gloves spreading their impact over quite a large area. However, other injuries can happen, such as sprained intercostals or damaged cartilage.
If you’re prone to rib injuries, make sure you cover up properly during your fights. You can also spar with a body protector too, which isn’t great fight practice, but it will prevent injuries.
Most rib injuries follow quite a similar timescale in terms of their recovery. Whether it’s damaged cartilage, broken ribs, or a strained intercostal, it should take around six weeks to be back to full health.
7. Neck Injuries
Broken necks are almost unheard of in boxing, but the sudden jarring motion from punches can cause sprains and discomfort. After a fight or a sparring session, you may experience stiffness or a decreased range of motion.
If neck stiffness is a common issue for you, then it’s best to practice some neck-strengthening exercises. This will give you more resistance when you get punched.
Use a mixture of ice and heat to treat a stiff neck. The pain should only last for one to two weeks but in more severe cases, it can be over a month until you have your full range of motion back.
8. Shoulder Injuries
Now we move from injuries caused by your opponent to more general sporting injuries. Due to the constant rotation of the shoulder, injuries can be common in this area, such as rotator cuff strains but other parts of the shoulder can be affected too.
Proper punching technique is vital, but even for the best boxers, shoulder injuries can happen. Shoulder strengthening and stretching exercises prior to your punching sessions can improve flexibility and reduce the chance of strains.
Boxers’ shoulder injury recovery time is hugely dependent on the severity. Most shoulder strains will clear up in a few weeks. But if you have surgery on a torn rotator cuff, for example, full recovery is likely to be six months and over.
9. Back Injuries
Back injuries can happen due to the constant twisting motion required to throw punches. Due to rules against hitting from behind, back injuries are very rare from the fighting itself.
Many back injuries come from the lack of a proper warm-up. Before hitting the gym or getting in the ring, make sure you’ve gone through your warm-up routines. Strengthening your core can also prevent back issues.
A back strain usually gets better in a little under a month. Taking anti-inflammatory medicine and applying heat/ice can be the best way to speed up your recovery.
10. Ankle Injuries
There is a potential for ankle injuries in boxing, and we’re including the Achilles tendon in this. Due to the constant footwork and flexing of the foot, ankle injuries are common.
If you’re the type who is prone to ankle injuries, then wearing boxing shoes with a high top is the wisest move. This will give you the maximum amount of ankle protection.
Recovery can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. If you blow out your Achilles as David Haye did, then it may take up to a year to recover.
11. Muscle Sprains
Even with the brutality of boxing, some fighters will simply suffer from a regular old muscle strain. This could be from training or fighting, and can happen to any of the muscles in your arms, torso, or legs.
Warming up properly and stretching will decrease your chance of a boxer sprain. If you have a recurring muscle problem, then yoga exercises targeting the affected area can be useful to increase flexibility.
Depending on the severity of the strain, recovery time will often range from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
We also thought it was important to mention the risk of dehydration. Will all that adrenaline coursing through your body, sometimes you can forget to take on enough water.
Preventing dehydration is obvious. Increase your water intake by taking regular breaks and making sure not to skip your water between rounds. Dehydration can be as mild as dizziness but can be as severe as getting heat exhaustion.
You may think dehydration can be solved instantly, but the effects of severe dehydration can take up to three days to clear up.
Common Boxing Injuries – FAQs
What are common long-term injuries from boxing?
There can be long-term problems with a concussion, but pain can also linger from severe injuries such as torn rotator cuffs, broken orbital bones, and torn Achilles. As with most sports people, boxers are also at a higher risk of developing chronic joint pain and arthritis.
Is boxing safer than MMA?
Comparing the two is difficult as fighters in each will get different types of injuries. MMA fighters are more likely to get lacerations but less likely to get concussions. In MMA, fractures and joint injuries are also more likely. In general, short-term injuries are more likely in MMA, but boxing probably has more long-term injuries.
Why does my wrist hurt after boxing?
It’s easy to get wrist injuries from punching. The wrist contains a lot of moving parts which all get compressed when you throw a punch. It can take a while for your wrists to get used to this. Wearing large gloves during sparring and wrapping your hands properly can reduce these risks.
How to prevent boxing injuries?
For concussion, you need to be aware of any dizziness and rest properly if you need to. For most other injuries, it’s all about warming up properly and wearing the proper equipment, such as boxing shoes, mouth guards, hand wraps, and head guards.