Paediatrics urge against children entering the boxing ring because the brains of underage athletes are more susceptible to injury. (Andrew Vaughn/Canadian Press) (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

While the debate over hits in minor hockey rages on, pediatricians are calling attention to another sport they say threatens kids' and teens' health: boxing.

Amateur boxing may not be as rough as the professional prizefights seen on TV, but it still presents a high risk of head injury, Canadian and American pediatricians argue in a new statement.

The position paper published Monday by the Canadian Paediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics calls for underage athletes — whose brains are more vulnerable to injury — to stay out of the ring.

Other sports such as hockey and football may cause more injuries overall, but boxing "is a sport where intentional blows to the head are rewarded," said Dr. Claire LeBlanc, one of the paper's Canadian authors.

That makes it particularly dangerous for children and teens, she said.


Calgary super middleweight boxer Dustin Sutley says he trains to avoid hits to the head. (John Spittal/CBC)

"The amount of time to recover from a single concussion for a child or youth takes longer than an adult," she said.

Calgary super middleweight boxer Dustin Sutley, 26, said he has known since he was a teenager that the sport can be dangerous.

But he said a big part of his training focuses on how to avoid those hits to the head.

"I mean you look at a sport like football, that's not an impact sport, it's a collision sport. Those are car crashes. You have 250-pound guys clashing into each other," he said.

But Dr Laura Purcell, who co-authored the position paper, dismisses the argument that other contact sports are as dangerous as boxing.

"What we're saying in this paper is that boxing results in more admissions to hospital than judo, karate or wrestling," she said.

And the safety equipment boxers wear makes no difference, she added.

"There is no evidence in the literature that any type of headgear will prevent concussions," she said.

With files from CBC News