Protecting Professional Boxers: Federal Regulations with More Punch

by Melissa Neiman
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The sport of boxing dates back more than 5000 years and was practiced by the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. In the United States, the sport became popular in the late 1800’s. The key participants in the sport include the boxer, the trainer, the manager, the promoter, and the sanctioning organizations. Boxing is considered by many to be a brutal sport and unfortunately, acute and chronic brain injuries are the most common injuries sustained by boxers. The sport has long been regulated by state commissions and only in the last fifty years has the federal government begun to intervene. Eleven years ago the first federal statute regulating boxing in the United States was passed. This statute was amended four years later and although federal regulation has brought some improvement to the overall picture, many reforms are yet necessary.

State regulation remains ineffective and insufficient in providing for the health and safety of boxers. Many states lack sufficiently stringent medical regulations. Also, enforcement varies widely, which leads to forum shopping by the boxer. State regulation of boxing also results in conflict of interest because stringent regulation by a state may lead to lost revenues when a bout is scheduled elsewhere. Reform is unlikely to occur through unionization given the diversity of boxers in the sport. The only major sport in this country that lacks a central regulatory organization is boxing. Therefore, a centralized federal regulatory administration is the most logical and viable solution to provide for the reforms necessary in the sport of boxing. Some legal research supports this view and suggested reforms have focused on the implementation of a central regulatory board and proposed regulations regarding the participants in the sport. The research has focused only broadly and to a very limited degree on the necessary specific medical reforms. I am proposing detailed regulations from a medical-neurosurgical viewpoint which need to be incorporated into proposed federal legislation to decrease the morbidity and mortality in professional boxing.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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