Drs. Miele and Bailes from the Virginia University School of Medicine looked at the ability of punch counting software, PunchStat, to objectively identify fatal bouts and determine which fights should be stopped. Their findings showed that amongst average boxers, the software had some predictive value that faded with more competitive fighters.
Towards developing an objective method of determining when boxing matches should be stopped, a computerized approach to counting punches at ringside identifies certain characteristics related to deaths in the ring, reports a study in the February issue of Neurosurgery…
Drs. Miele and Bailes performed a computer-assisted video analysis to compare three groups of professional boxing matches. Ten bouts leading to the death of a fighter were compared with a “classic” group of ten highly competitive matches.
Fight videos were reviewed by expert observers, who counted punches thrown and landed using a computerized system, called Punchstat, that is commonly used during televised bouts and by fighters for training purposes. The fatal and classic matches were also compared with a group of 4,000 bouts representing the “average” boxing match previously scored with Punchstat.
The results showed some significant differences between the fatal and average bouts. The number of punches landed per round was higher in fatal matches: 26.6 for the survivor versus 22.9 for the fighter who died, compared to 9.4 in the average fight.
In fatal matches, the surviving fighters threw and connected on more “power punches” than their opponents. This suggested that the punch-counting system might help to identify fights in which one boxer was entering a “danger level” in terms of the number of punches thrown or landed.
However, when fatal bouts were compared to the more competitive classic matches, the differences were no longer significant. In fact, boxers in the classic bouts landed an average of 10 more punches per round than those in fatal matches.
None of the various other characteristics analyzed such as age, weight class, boxing experience and record, or previous brain injury was able to identify fighters at greater risk of death.
“The sport of boxing is often a subject of controversy because the primary strategy is to disable an opponent’s central nervous system,” the researchers write. “Although numerous prestigious medical organizations have called for its abolishment, participation in the sport of boxing has reached an all-time high among both men and women, and its elimination is unlikely in the near future…”
Although the computerized punch-count method identifies some characteristics of fatal bouts, the system would become less effective as matches become more competitive. Alternatively, it might lead to a decrease in the level of competition. “[T]his method of stopping a contest would essentially eliminate what many consider to be the most competitive and exciting matches,” the authors write.