Linda Chavez
As an American, I am proud of Olympic Gold medalist Claressa Shields' feat in women's boxing at the Olympics -- but as a woman who has suffered traumatic brain injury, I am deeply concerned that her win will encourage other young women to pursue this dangerous, potentially life-altering sport.

There is no question that repeated blows to the head cause changes in the brain -- even when the head is protected by gear meant to soften the blows. The NFL has come under fire recently because of the link between football-incurred concussions and greatly increased risk of Alzheimer's and other cognitive and memory problems.

The high-profile suicide of former linebacker Junior Seau has once again focused attention on the issue; his family has donated his brain for study to see if his injuries may have played a role in his mental deterioration. The league currently faces lawsuits from more than 2000 former players who believe their injuries have caused irreversible brain damage. A 2009 NFL study showed Alzheimer's was much more likely to occur among former pro-football players than in the general population. Players 30-49 years old had an early Azheimer's rate almost 20 times greater than men in the general population.

I sympathize with those players. In 2003, I took a bad fall, slamming the back of my head to the floor and losing consciousness briefly. Although early MRIs showed no sign of damage, a recent brain scan showed that one side of my frontal lobe had shrunk slightly. My doctors believe the changes occurred as a result of my brain slamming against the inside of my skull -- which is what happens whenever the head rapidly accelerates and then stops or reverses direction from hitting a hard object, shaking, being jerked forward in a car accident, or being hit. Once the first injury occurs, medical evidence suggests that any subsequent injuries, even minor ones, are more likely to cause severe damage.

So why is it we should celebrate encouraging young women to punch each other repeatedly, risking not just broken ribs, cuts and bruises, but serious trauma to their brains? The same, of course, can be said for men. Boxing is a brutal sport, one whose sole purpose is to hurt the opponent while avoiding being hurt yourself. Even football has other goals -- advancing a ball down the field -- which relies on passing, running, and kicking, not just brute force.

There are other reasons to oppose boxing for women. Many feminists see the decision to include women's boxing in the Olympics as a step forward in recognizing equality. These same feminists want to see women in military combat. Their ultimate goal is ignoring any differences between men and women, even when those differences are biologically rooted.


Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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