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Ed R C Cantu. (Pp 207; £28.50.) Leeds: Human Kinetics Europe Ltd, 1995. ISBN 0-87322-797-2.
I enjoyed reading this book. A book consisting solely of accounts of boxing related injuries would probably have been a chore to read and reinforced my prejudices about a pastime in which participants have to punch their opponents to score points. However, this is a well balanced book that sets out the medical aspects of boxing in a logical fashion.
The differences between amateur and professional boxing are explained, and there are chapters that address the ethical and social aspects of the sport in America. Robert Cantu, the editor, a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine and medical director of the National Centre for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, has overseen contributions from a number of eminent people. Experts look at the medical problems associated with boxing and what evidence there is to confirm how they occurred. It is pointed out that there is a lack of well controlled studies of boxing injuries. The Johns Hopkins Medical Institute study of central nervous system function in amateur boxers is a linear prospective investigation, which was reported by two of the team in the chapter discussing the risk of brain damage. Initial findings (1994) of impaired cognitive function being related to the number of previous bouts but reported as being not clinically significant needs further elucidation, and follow up results should be interesting.
The editor points out that safety changes have been made in American football, professional boxing, and, in particular, amateur boxing through informed medical advice. He would like to see the safety and preventive medicine aspects of the amateurs incorporated into the professional world, and the final chapter of the book is an excellent account of how professional boxing could be made safer. Measures are outlined with reasons why they are necessary.
The IOC medical commission does not now permit theophyllines and systemic steroids, which are suggested as permissible for asthma treatment. Otherwise the role of the ringside doctor is extremely detailed, comprehensive, and includes an excellent account of safety measures that need to be present.
Boxing is an extremely contentious subject, but this book will be of interest to any sports physician involved in boxing or who at least wishes to be able to take part in reasoned debate.
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