By Christian Toto
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
purists don't call the sport the "sweet science" for nothing.
When the bell rings, boxers go through
a series of athletic moves
that depend mightily on science. Everything from the biology of the
knockout to the size
and make of the boxing glove administering it relies
The simple art of a knockout
punch involves a series of chemical
reactions that can leave a fighter dazed for seconds or much longer, says
Douglas Frankel, a Rockville-based fighters physician.
A knockout, or loss of consciousness, happens
for one of three
reasons, the trauma expert says.
When a boxer is on the business end of a serious
blow, the jolt is
comparable to what is felt during a car accident, he says.
"The brain bangs
against the opposite side of the skull," he says.
That's one reason a fighter might drop to the canvas. "The brain
like any change at all."
Another is that the boxer may suffer a disruption in the nerve
systems of the brain.
Finally, a fighter could experience a change in his body's
flow, also known as the shearing force, from the punch.
Knockouts, Dr. Frankel adds, can occur in
the ring without a
telltale crushing blow.
"A sudden jerk of the head or twisting could cause
a change in the
electrical or blood flow," he says.
Or it could come from a steady procession
of blows, one reason
today's referees often stop a fight if one puncher lands repeated blows to
his opponent's head
without the fighter offering a defense or
One way to revive a fallen or dazed
fighter is to wave smelling
salts under his nose. Those salts are made up of ammonium carbonate and a
to create a fast-acting stimulant that triggers the
inhalation reflex. The fumes are absorbed by the mucus membrane in
nose and, seconds later, those in the lungs. That, in turn, triggers the
muscles that control breathing to work
faster, forcing more oxygen into
the person's system and quickening his awakening.
says the salts might work as intended, but physicians
often prefer not to use them because they can mask serious symptoms.
boxer who gets an artificial boost from smelling salts might be robbing
the ringside doctor of key information regarding
how long the boxer
would have stayed unconscious, he says.
Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, Washington Hospital
Center's director of sports
medicine, says doctors aren't sure why a boxer springs back to life
after a knockout.
"It's kind of like a shock to the brain. The body partially shuts
down and then recovers spontaneously," Dr. Douoguih
The big blow itself might not look impressive to those at ringside.
That doesn't mean
the punch defied the laws of physics.
"They say, 'You just caught it right.' The more force and
greater the impact, the greater potential for damage," Dr. Douoguih says.
Even if it doesn't
appear that the punch had that kind of speed and
Take former heavyweight George Foreman,
for example. Dr. Douoguih
says the pudgy pugilist had "deceptive quickness," which added oomph to
Dennis Reilly, a former boxer and physical trainer based in
Plantation, Fla., understands the sweet science label better
"A lot of people think it's a brutal sport. They don't think about
adapting to someone's
[fighting] style or the different things you have
to do," Mr. Reilly says. "There are so many things involved with
Just throwing a punch demonstrates a boxer's understanding of how
to generate speed and power.
"Everything comes from the core," Mr. Reilly says. "You're turning
the hips, and you want to keep the left foot down and
turn on the right
... put your whole body into it."
Mr. Reilly adds that a jab -- a short, snapping
punch -- doesn't
involve that kind of physics.
"It's a setup punch for your power punch," he
says, but a jab from
a heavyweight still can knock someone down.
Mr. Reilly, who had 12 professional
fights and also played for
football's New York Giants, says a boxer's hands are meticulously wrapped
in tape and gauze
before the boxing gloves are put on.
"After they tape your hands up, it feels like you could kill
somebody," he says.
That's why boxing gloves play such a crucial part in the sport's
Mr. Reilly says that during the 1970s, boxers used to enter the
ring wearing 8-ounce
gloves, but today they're more likely to be sporting
10-ounce models. Boxers 147 pounds and lighter still use 8-ounce
"The lighter the glove, the more damage it can do," he explains,
because less material
stands between the fighter's clenched fist and his
Some boxers also use headgear
to minimize the sport's health risks.
It isn't foolproof.
"I've seen people
get dropped, even while sparring, with the
headgear on," Mr. Reilly says, adding that boxers need to wear models that
fit properly so the blows don't knock the material into their line of
director of marketing for Everlast Worldwide sporting
goods company, says the right headgear does more than absorb some
punch's impact. It also can prevent facial lacerations and burst
eardrums. Everlast's headgear, like the kind
worn at the amateur level and
during sparring, features what he calls "ear channels" that dissipate the
from a blow to the side of the head to protect the
Joe Guzman, Everlast's director
of professional boxing, says when
former champion Joe Louis ruled the sport, boxing gloves weighed but 6
Today, not only does the average glove weigh more, but companies
such as Everlast also have ditched the horsehair that
formed the gloves'
main padding in favor of foam and turned to seamless thumbs to prevent
Everlast also offers specialized glove wraps for those fighters who
may not know how to tape their hands properly before
The gloves, designed by hand surgeon Dr. Charles Malone, protect
the knuckles and tendons
with a gel padding covered by neoprene wrapping.
Velcro wraps keep the wrists' position firm to provide further support.
This article was mailed from
The Washington Times
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