Preventing Injuries in Sparring Sessions

A boxing match is inherently dangerous for the boxers involved; however, what many people don’t realize is how safe and controlled the training aspect of boxing really is. Unlike high-contact sports like rugby and football, training for boxing typically consists of a workout routine, albeit an immensely exhausting routine, that doesn’t usually incorporate any contact other than glove-to-bag. The main avenue for a training routine that involves a high level of physical contact is sparring, which is highly controlled and supervised, and unlike a fight, is often broken up by the trainers for intermittent advice on technique.

That said, like all sports, there is still room for injury, especially when sparring is incorporated into the routine, as this adds one additional factor into the mix. Furthermore, sparring is very exhausting, so pushing through fatigue can lead to a training athlete being a little more vulnerable to injuries. In this article, we would like to provide a few tips for reducing the chances of an injury in training (in addition to proper stretching), but especially sparring.

  1. Matching Fighters – This should go without saying, but sparring should involve two fighters who are similar in weight-class, and who are at similar skill levels. This doesn’t always have to be the case. For example, if the focus is on advancing the skillset of one of the fighters in particular, then the “opponent” may be a more advanced fighter, but one who understand exactly what the purpose of the sparring session is. In other words, they shouldn’t be going all out, but rather, acting as a tool for the trainers to show the other fighter the ropes. Therefore, if you are new to the boxing scene, never try and overplay your abilities. Be honest about where you feel you’re at in your training, and you will be able to get the most out of your training and minimize the risk of injury at the same time.
  2. Vaseline – Always coat your face and sparring gear in Vaseline or something similar before hopping in the ring. This includes the padding of your headgear, especially on the forehead and cheek padding (if applicable), and definitely the nose. Additionally, the front of your gloves should be coated with Vaseline, which will help punches slide off your opponent better. You can also apply some to your shoulder and arms if you feel it’s appropriate. To be clear, you will still feel any punches the opponent lands on you, and vice versa, but this technique can go a long way in minimizing any damage, especially in terms of cuts.
  3. Bracing – If you are coming off any sort of joint injury, such as a sprained knee or ankle, or a sprained wrist, be sure to have the joint properly wrapped or braced, but in a way that won’t put your sparring partner in any danger (so no exposed hard plastic). This can be easy enough for the wrist, as your hand wraps will already provide a good form of splinting, and you can add an additional brace under your gloves if necessary. What we find to be underrated is the use of a brace on the lower limbs. Boxing involves lots of cutting and other rapid changes in direction, and when sparring, it’s not uncommon to see partners step on each other’s toes, especially if one is a south-paw or they are just inexperienced in general. One brace a lot of our fighters have started using is the Zamst AX-D2 ankle brace, which is most popular for having help NBA superstar Steph Curry play through and prevent further ankle injuries. The site braceaccess.com also has a lot of other options explained in detail, so check that out for more information.
  4. Conditions – One thing I always appreciated as a boxer was when the trainer didn’t allow any sparring on excessively hot and humid days that steamed up the gym, unless it was at the very start of the training session and only a light sparring session. Injuries don’t always take the form of a sprain, strain, or cut, but can also be in the form of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Plus, throwing a fighter in the ring when they are incredibly exhausted is just asking for trouble. So make your own judgment here, but just keep an eye on the conditions and how the guys in the gym are responding to them.

When all is said and done, these are pretty obvious tips that most trainers are already well-aware of. That said, they are extremely important to stick to. Deviating from this, or getting lazy and simply thinking “whatever” is when injuries are most likely to happen, so stay on course and always incorporate the highest level of safety into your sparring sessions. This will help keep you in the ring, and ultimately, allow you to get the most out of your training. Now, get after it!

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