Road to Rota Part II: Boxing hasn't always been gentle

25 Nov 2000 | Cpl. Derek A. Shoemake

Albeit slowly, my awkward arm slinging is taking the form of a punch, and I'm starting to look a little more like a boxer and a little less like a guy swarming off an onslaught of bees.I still have a few problem areas. One of these is my tendency to drop my left after I throw the jab, leaving my face and head unguarded. Navy Doctor LCDR Mike Picio, a family physician with Fleet Surgical Team 8, gave me some words that may help cure my defensive shortcoming.It's called coup contrecoup, a term used to describe what happens when one is hit in the head. Coup refers to the punch's initial impact and effect. For example, if one were hit on the left side of the head, the left side of the brain would become bruised or begin bleeding, depending on the force of the blow. Then comes contrecoup. Our brains basically float around in our skulls, resulting in mobility within the skull. This mobility allows for contrecoup, the secondary impact on the brain. When a person is hit on the left side of his head it sends his brain colliding against the opposite side of the skull. So the brain of a person punched on the left side of the head will suffer on the left and right side."If the punch is hard enough and the boxer's head movement is out of control, his brain can be going all over the place," said Picio, a Pittsburgh, Penn. native.Still, the brain is also a resilient organ. Picio said he worked at a hospital where a man was stabbed through the head with a hunting knife and survived, though he later suffered from some personality disorders and seizures. There are also neurologists who believe President Abraham Lincoln would have survived the shooting at Ford's Theater if his doctors had not introduced a metal probe in an attempt to locate the bullet.Picio said it is hard to say what type of blow will cause serious damage, as there is so little modern science knows about the brain.Erring on the side of caution, the American Academy of Orthopedics and the American Academy of Neurologists advocate some type of ban on professional boxing. What I'll be doing is a bit different. Unlike the pros, the Amateur Boxing Federation uses headgear, heavier gloves and more extensive groin protection. Since our Rumble will be considered an amateur fight, we'll be using the headgear and additional padding. I'm all for it, the thought of my brain bouncing around the inside of my head like a grapefruit in a shoe box is not very comforting.Though I would not consider boxing any more brutal than football, especially when you hold today's boxing up against it's past.Though man has always fought, boxing as we know it began in the Roman Empire. Those fighters make Mike Tyson look like the Easter Bunny. Opponents each wore a cestus, a glove-like piece of leather laced with metal studs. Fights would be carried out until one of the men were seriously maimed or killed. The sport of boxing did not even see a standard set of written rules until 1743. These rules warned fighters against blunders like kicking an opponent who was on the ground, or pulling their opponent up by his hair. The boxing rules we know today come from the Queensberry rules, as they were penned in 1857 under the supervision of the 8th Marquis of Queensberry. Still, even then things were more brutal. Professional fights were fought with bare knuckles until the turn of the 20th century.So it seems I have no right to worry about a punch to my protected body. My opponent will be wearing almost a pound of padding on each hand, a far cry from bare knuckles or the metal-laced cestus I would have faced under the Roman Empire.Regardless, be it with knuckles, metal studs or a padded glove, to win in Rota I need to be delivering punches, not receiving them. I'm pretty sure that's something about boxing that will never change.