Ban boxing, says neuroscientist

Michael Cook
20 September 2013
Reproduced with Permission

One of Britain's leading neuroscientists, John Hardy, of University College London, has used the magazine New Scientist to call for a ban on boxing. He says that he does not want to be a killjoy, but the wretched lives of punchdrunk boxers are sufficient argument to end a sport which consists in targeting the brain.

"The condition … is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), previously called punch drunk syndrome, boxer's dementia or dementia pugilistica. This causes progressive memory problems, personality change and slowness of movement. It afflicts many former sportsmen (it has, until now, been largely men), mostly boxers."

Boxing is the most dangerous of sports which involve damage to the head. But there are others. Thousands of former professional football players in the United States have joined a class action suit against the National Football League claiming that the association knew about the dangers of head trauma but failed to warn them.

In soccer, heavy leather balls have been replaced with lighter plastic ones and in rugby players are carefully monitored, but other sports must also take brain damage seriously, says Professor Hardy. He proposes that the role of "enforcer" in ice hockey be abolished. He concludes:

"nothing can be more killing of joy than personality changes, violence, substance abuse and dementia. I also think it is demeaning as a society for people to get pleasure out of watching others fight and that we should consign this public spectacle, as we have done public executions, to the dustbin of history."