Young boxer Vito Mielnicki, eight year old, is a contender.
The boy from Roseland, N.J., hopes to compete for the Junior Golden Gloves title later this month in Las Vegas. Vito, who weighs 57 pounds, was profiled on the front page of The Star-Ledger of Newark last Saturday. I cringed when I read that article.
In terms of brain injury, boxing is dangerous enough for adults. But it’s especially risk-ridden for young kids like Vito, whose brains are still being developed.
The Ledger did talk to a surgeon, Dr. Vincent McInerney at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, about the risks of boys Vito’s age boxing. He pointed out that boys that age have heads that are out of proportion to the rest of their bodies.
“Their neck muscles are weaker, so they are more susceptible to head injuries, and children also don’t recover as quickly as adults,” the physician told The Ledger.
In defense of the sport, it was noted that the headgear and padded gloves used in youth boxing today help ward off brain injury. And Vito’s football coach, Bob Burke, said that the safety measures at bouts now are much stricter than they used to be.
For example, matches are only three one-minute rounds. And if a kid gets hit hard, a referee will stop the bout, count to eight and then call for a ringside physician if the child still isn’t OK.
For me, these boxing precautions will never be safe enough. And Vito is engaging in not just one but two sports — football and boxing — that are known to result in concussions.
My heart went out to Vito’s mother, who seems to be the only wise one in the Mielnicki household. She told The Ledger that she gets so nervous when Vito fights that she closes her eyes.
“If it was my choice, I wouldn’t have put him in it because, of course, every mother gets nervous,” she told the paper. “It’s a very contact sport, one-on-one, but my son loves it.”
When asked what he likes about boxing Vito said he enjoys training, he likes winning and he likes getting trophies.
That’s all well and good, Vito, but it’s not worth the risks you are taking of potentially damaging your brain for life.