Deaths and Injuries in Sports

June 12, 1963

Report Outline
Rising Concern Over Fatalities in Boxing
Prevention of Brain Damage in the Ring
Hazards in Football and Baseball

Rising Concern Over Fatalities in Boxing

Participation in sports, especially sports involving bodily contact, inevitably entails risk of injury, sometimes risk of death. There is a general disposition to accept the risks because taking part in competitive sports is considered to contribute importantly to physical development, the maintenance of physical fitness, and the development of leadership qualities. Yet there is growing insistence that greater precautions be taken to reduce injuries to a minimum. In the case of boxing, predominantly a spectator sport, a disturbing series of ring fatalities has generated pressure to outlaw professional bouts or subject them to far stricter regulation than at present prescribed by state commissions.

Society displays no consistent attitude in such matters. Public sanction of contests that feature the battering of one man into unconsciousness by another is now called into question, possibly because the major prizefights are witnessed today by millions on television. On the other hand, automobile racing, which took the lives of 42 drivers in various parts of the world in 1962, raises relatively few protests. The 500-mile Memorial Day race at Indianapolis was marred by no fatalities this year, but the race has killed 48 drivers in the 47 times it has been held.

Less dramatic than deaths in professional boxing or auto racing—but more tragic because they sometimes could have been avoided—are deaths in school and college football. A persistently high incidence of serious injury and death in high school football has drawn attention to shortcomings in conditioning of players, in coaching and in equipment; allegations of brutality on college football fields are current. Moreover, tackle football, once restricted to the colleges and large high schools, is coming to be accepted for junior high players. Baseball injuries are receiving greater publicity now that more than a million American boys, age 8 through 12, are enrolled in Little League teams.

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