Mandatory Military Boxing Classes Expose Service Members to Unnecessary Concussion Risks

A required class at prestigious military schools is resulting in an exorbitant amount of concussions — more than double the amount obtained from the schools’ football programs according to a recent New York Times piece.

Male students at West Point and the Air Force Academy as well as both male and female students at the US Naval Academy are required to take and pass boxing class as part of their military and academic training. If they suffer a concussion, they are required to rest from training, classes, and other sports. If they miss too many boxing classes while recovering, they are required to retake boxing, further exposing them to risk of concussion.

DOES 100 YEAR OLD REQUIREMENT HAVE VALIDITY TODAY?

Boxing has been a US Military Academy freshman requirement for over 100 years. It was originally integrated into the curriculum because President Roosevelt believed boxing was a necessary skill to adequately prepare officers for combat. Current military leadership echoes the century-old thinking. West Point’s PE Director, Lt. Col. Nicholas Gist, believes that boxing classes exposes cadets to the “fear and stress” of combat situations and teaches the necessary “confidence to respond.” He’d rather his soldiers learn the perils of combat in school than overseas in war.

Ironically, while boxing is viewed as the best way to prepare officers for war, it is not required in basic training for enlisted service members. Even infantry troops, who are much more likely to be involved in hand-to-hand combat than officers, are not required to take boxing. Boxing is also not a requirement for ROTC students attending other colleges. In addition to boxing, the military academies also require a close-quarters contact and takedown class as part of military training. Officials admit that this class does a better job of preparing cadets to fight effectively, but insist it falls short in instilling the necessary amount of courage to give and take hard hits.

The main problem with service members receiving multiple concussions is how it affects their overall performance and military readiness. The argument can be made that when a cadet has to miss valuable education and training time while recovering from a concussion, that cadet is a less effective member of his unit. Brenda Sue Fulton, chair of West Point’s Board of Visitors admits that “it’s possible by trying to prepare our cadets, we are making them less ready.”

BOXING SAFETY GEAR AN INSUFFICIENT RESPONSE TO THE CONCUSSION NUMBERS

Parents of service members are concerned that boxing only remains part of military curriculum because of the sport’s military history. Military officials seem unwilling to eliminate mandatory boxing classes because they would be changing the entire culture of a military education. Officials have tried to compromise by making some changes to the program; participants are now required to wear safety gear and limit the number of blows they give and take to the head. Regardless of these precautions, concussions are still occurring at an astounding rate.

High school students who are considering enrolling at one of the nation’s top military academies need to be aware of the risks associated with freshman boxing class. Students who played contact sports in high school and suffered even minor concussions are especially at risk for sustaining more serious concussions during their military training.

Many parents and cadets fear repercussions from military leadership if they seek help. Put those fears to rest by partnering with a lawyer who will aggressively fight for your service member’s right to safer military training.

If your child is a student at West Point, the Air Force Academy, or the US Naval Academy, and you are concerned about head injuries, contact Chris Faiella today. As one of America’s leading personal injury lawyers and legal authors, Missouri-based Chris Faiella can provide the expertise you need as you pursue justice for your child.

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