Letters to the Editor

Letters: Hard Knocks and Health

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As a lawyer and amateur boxer, I was generally pleased with “The Allure of the Sweet Science,” October. Since I started boxing two years ago, I have gotten into shape, made new friends, and seen great improvements in my ability to sustain mental focus and manage confrontation in my legal career.

There was one aspect of boxing, however, that the article did not address. For instance, I recall my trainer screaming “Make him feel your power!” after a shot to the temple knocked me sideways and nearly caused me to vomit. Fearing I’d already suffered a concussion, I decided not to try to make my opponent feel my power. I have mixed feelings about that decision—wise in the long term, perhaps, but devastating to my reputation in the gym and to my competitive psyche. Like every athlete, I’d had to draw a line between pushing to my physical limits and suffering pointless injuries. As a lawyer, I’d had to draw that line so conservatively as to limit my ability to compete properly in my sport of choice.

I’m troubled that the article makes no mention of concussions, chronic traumatic encephalopathy or other injury concerns. Many lawyers believe the benefits of contact sports outweigh the risks. And medical evidence does not suggest that amateur boxing is any more harmful to the body or brain than hockey, football, rugby, soccer or other sports. However, we are too well aware of the short- and long-term dangers of repetitive brain trauma for any publication to champion such activities without consideration of the risks involved. That is particularly important for lawyers, whose livelihoods depend on cognitive precision.

Boxing teaches skills that lawyers need, and that are hard-learned through any other endeavor. I am the first to encourage friends and colleagues to take a lesson with my favorite trainer. But lawyer-boxers also need to draw a firm, conscious line between their athletic ambitions and their health. Any story about lawyers and boxing that fails to address that consideration is, frankly, incomplete.

Tristan Axelrod
West Palm Beach, Florida

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