Too Tough For Teens

Monday, September 5, 2011 - 9:21am

New policy recommends kids and teens avoid boxing due to danger of concussions.

Parents and coaches should discourage kids from boxing because the sport rewards deliberate hits to their opponents' heads, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In an updated policy statement, the AAP focuses on the serious risk of face and brain injuries, pointing out that children's brains are more vulnerable to concussion and recovery takes longer.

While the statement says there's no evidence that head guards reduce the incidence of concussions, some who have been involved with Miami's youth boxing programs say head guards do help.

"Not that it prevents injury completely, but it does protect against brain damage like a football helmet does," says Frank Otero, a member of Florida's Boxing Hall of Fame.

As he trained for his next professional fight at Extreme Boxing Club in Hialeah, Azea Augustama said he started boxing at 15 years old, but doesn't want his two young boys follow in his footsteps.

"To actually go and compete, I would definitely not force them," he said. "And I wouldn't want them to."

Otero says he turned pro at age 19, but started boxing long before that.

"My father put up a ring in our backyard when I was in seventh grade," he said.

In a book on Miami's famous 5th Street Gym, one of Otero's bouts is referred to as "the best fight in Miami history."

He trained boxers for a while, but gave it up for a career in real estate.

Now, his grandchildren want to be trained -- and despite his opinion on head guards, he's still wary of injuries.

"I have mixed feelings about that," he said. "I want my grandkids to train or learn how to defend themselves, but I don't want them actually boxing in the ring and getting hit in the head."

Amateur governing body USA Boxing stresses headgear is always worn during amateur fights and that safety is its first priority.

The AAP, however, is urging its pediatricians to guide patients toward other sports such as swimming, tennis, basketball and volleyball.

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