Muay Thai: Child boxers suffer from low IQ

Muay Thai: Child boxers suffer from low IQ

A boxing trainer instructs a 7-year-old girl in Muay Thai boxing. Some experts fear children are at risk of brain damage if they are hit too hard in the ring. File photo
A boxing trainer instructs a 7-year-old girl in Muay Thai boxing. Some experts fear children are at risk of brain damage if they are hit too hard in the ring. File photo

Child boxers with more than five years' experience had average IQ of 88, 10 points lower than standard IQ levels.


Muay Thai: Child boxers suffer from low IQs

Sudarat Khamdee & Penchan Charoensuthipan

Over the years, Muay Thai, also known as Thai klck-boxing, has gained popularity as a sport internationally.

An increasing number of boys and girls engage in the sport from an early age and this has raised concerns about the risk of brain damage.

It has become increasingly common for children younger than 15 to take part in tournaments in front of hundreds of spectators.

Child boxing matches in Thailand are often conducted under the same rules as adult matches, including the duration of fights.

Many children also do not use safeguards such as head protection.

Unlike those of adults, children's brains are growing and changing and are susceptible to greater damage.

The latest medical research in Thailand shows adverse effects on the brains of young boxers.

Young Muay Thai fighters perform the wai khru ceremony before a Bangkok exhibition. Medical experts are concerned about dangers in the sport. (File photo by Thiti Wannamontha)


The risks of brain damage have worried many parents.

Medical research shows abnormalities appear on the brains of children who box when compared with children who don't take up the sport.

The brain ability and capacity of 200 children who don't box and 300 child boxers who had boxed for more than two years was compared in a recent study.
The study involved children aged below 15 and was conducted by the Advanced Diagnostic Imaging Centre (AIMC) and Injury Prevention Research Centre (CSIP) of Ramathibodi Hospital.


After reviewing MRI brain scans of the children, the studies found a lower IQ among child boxers and that lower IQ correlated with the duration of boxing, Professor Jiraporn Laothamatas director of the AIMC said.

The group of child boxers with more than five years' experience had an average IQ of 88, 10 points lower than standard IQ levels, she said.

The study also found more abnormalities in the structure of the brain, including tearing of branch -like projections of neurons, among child boxers than children who didn't box.


Many child boxing matches lack head protection according to Professor Prasert Boongird, a doctor from the Neurology Division of Ramathibodi Hospital. 

Head impacts should not be allowed for children aged under 13 while those under nine should not be allowed to box, he says.


Young fighter Siripat "Night" Kamkom is now 11.

He has been boxing since he was five and said he had fought about 30 times and won more than 20 fights.

Night is paid about 800 baht to 1,000 baht per fight.

Asked why he enrolled in Muay Thai boxing, Night replied: "Because I love it. I want to be a professional Muay Thai fighter in the future."

Night said he is not afraid of risks and not concerned about brain damage.

He said: "I am not afraid of those injuries. When you fight you will get hurt anyway. It is normal in Muay Thai."

His mother said she would never stop her son from doing what he loves.

When asked about the risks of brain damage that child boxers can get, his mother said:

"I don't think so. My son always gets good grades and I am not worried about the risks; in fact, I am proud of my son. I trust the trainer to take good care of Night."


"Muay Thai is a sport you can learn at a very young age," said Somchai Somboon, a Muay Thai trainer at Sor Buk Buek Muay Thai Gym in Hua Hin.

"Starting early makes you stronger and more experienced so you can become a good boxer in the future," he says.

"Training in Muay Thai from an early age is normal here in Thailand."

The 46-year-old trainer, who has practised Muay Thai since he was 13, said he has looked after child boxers for many years and strict safety procedures are in place during both training and competitions.


Mr Somchai said spectators like to watch child boxing.

They love child boxing because children do not pretend or fix matches like some adults.

Children are "innocent and fight with pure spirit", making their bouts more interesting to adults.


But he admitted there was money involved as the number of tournaments across the country increases as child boxing gains popularity.

He said passion for the sport was the main reason children want to learn Muay Thai and they love to train and fight.

He said it is true many of them fight for money to care for their families but "the passion always comes first".

Mostly, children will start training when they turn nine or 10 years old, he said.

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  • ability: a level of skill or intelligence - ความสามารถม กังวลใจ
  • abnormality (noun): things that are not normal, not the way they should be, deviant - ผิดปกติ, ผิดธรรมดา, ผิดวิสัย, ผิดแปลก, แปลก
  • according to (prep): as stated or reported by somebody/something - ตามคำบอกเล่า, ตามรายงาน
  • admitted (verb): agreed that something is true, especially when you are unhappy, sorry or surprised about it - ยอมรับ
  • advanced (adj): having the most modern and recently developed ideas, methods, etc - ก้าวหน้า, สมัยใหม่
  • adverse: having a negative or harmful effect on something - ในทางลบ, เป็นผลร้าย
  • average: an amount calculated by adding several amounts together, finding a total, and dividing the total by the number of amounts - เฉลี่ย, ค่าเฉลี่ย
  • bout: a boxing or wrestling match - การแข่งขัน
  • branch (noun): a part of a tree that grows out from the main stem and on which leaves, flowers and fruit grow - กิ่งก้าน
  • capacity: the ability to do a particular thing - ความสามารถ,สมรรถภาพ
  • compare (verb): to show or state that somebody/something is similar to somebody/something else - เปรียบเทียบ
  • competition: an organised event in which people try to win prizes by being better than other people - การแข่งขัน
  • concern: a worry - ความกังวล
  • conduct: to carry out — - ดำเนิน
  • damage (noun): physical harm caused to something which makes it less attractive, useful or valuable - ความเสียหาย
  • diagnostic: finding out what physical or mental problem someone has by examining them - วินิจฉัย,ตรวจโรค
  • division (noun): one part of a large company or organisation - แผนก
  • duration: the period of time during which something continues to happen or exist - ช่วงระยะเวลา, ความทนทาน
  • engage in: to take part in a particular activity - มีส่วนร่วมใน
  • enroll (verb): to put someone onto the official list of members of a course or college - ลงทะเบียน
  • experience: the knowledge and skill that you have gained through doing something for a period of time - ประสบการณ์
  • experienced (adj): having knowledge as a result of doing something for a long time, or having had a lot of different experiences - ซึ่งมีประสบการณ์, ชำนาญ
  • fix: to dishonestly arrange something so that it has the result you want - ใช้วิธีการอันมิชอบ, เล่ห์เหลี่ยมเข้าคุม
  • image: a photograph, painting, or other work of art that represents a person or thing - รูปภาพ
  • impact (noun): the force with which one object hits another - แรงกระแทก
  • in place: prepared and ready to use - เข้าที่, อยู่ในที่
  • injury (noun): physical damage done to a person or a part of their body - อาการบาดเจ็บ
  • innocent: a person who has not done anything wrong - ผู้บริสุทธิ์
  • internationally: connected with or involving two or more countries - นานาชาติ, สากล, ระหว่างประเทศ
  • involve (verb): to be an important or necessary part or result of something - เกี่ยวพัน, เกี่ยวข้อง, พัวพัน
  • latest (adj): newest; most recent - ] ล่าสุด, See also: ทันสมัยที่สุด, เกิดหลังสุด
  • match: a sports competition - การแข่งขัน
  • medical: connected with illness and injury and their treatment - ทางการแพทย์, ด้านการแพทย์, เกี่ยวกับการแพทย์
  • MRI scan (noun): Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a medical technology that like x-rays makes pictures to show what is happening inside the body - เอ็มอาร์ไอ (ภาพเอ็มอาร์), เอ็มอาร์ไอ (การสร้างภาพด้วยเรโซแนนซ์แม่เหล็ก; ระบบสร้างภาพจากการสั่นพ้องของคลื่นสนามแม่เหล็ก, ระบบสร้างภาพจากการสั่นพ้องของคลื่นสนามแม่เหล็ก ซึ่งโดยทั่วไปจะเป็นการสร้างภาพตัดขวางทางการแพทย์
  • neurology: the medical specialty of treating diseases and disorders of the nervous system -
  • neuron (noun): a cell that carries information within the brain and between the brain and other parts of the body; a nerve cell - เซลล์ประสาท
  • normal (adj.): typical, usual or ordinary; what you would expect - ปกติ, ภาวะปกติ
  • passion: a strong enthusiasm or interest - ความชื่นชม หลงใหล 
  • popularity: a situation in which someone or something is liked by many people - ความเป็นที่นิยม, ความเป็นที่ชื่นชอบ
  • practise: to do something regularly, often according to a custom, religion or set of rules, or as a habit - ทำตามหลักทางศาสนา
  • pretend: to behave as if something is true when you know that it is not, especially in order to deceive people or as a game - แกล้งทำว่าเป็นจริง
  • prevention: preventing something bad from happening - การป้องกันภ้ย
  • procedure: a way of doing something - ขั้นตอนการดำเนินการ
  • professional: doing something as a paid job rather than as a hobby - ที่ทำเป็นอาชีพ
  • projection: to project out, when an object goes out from a place or location a certain distance -
  • protection: the act of protecting somebody/something; the state of being protected - การอารักขา, การปกป้อง
  • proud: feeling pleased and satisfied about something that you own or have done, or are connected with - ภูมิใจ
  • pure: having nothing in something to spoil its quality or effect - บริสุทธิ์
  • recent: happening or starting a short time ago - เร็วๆ นี้
  • reply: an answer - การตอบ
  • research: a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - การวิจัย
  • review: the process of studying or examining a situation, policy, or idea again in order to decide whether it is suitable or satisfactory - การทบทวน
  • risk: the possibility that something dangerous or unpleasant might happen - ความเสี่ยง
  • risk: to cause someone or something to be in a dangerous situation - เสี่ยงอันตราย
  • safeguard: to protect something/somebody from loss, harm or damage; to keep something/somebody safe - ป้องกัน, ปกป้อง, คุ้มครอง, อารักขา
  • spectator: a person who watches an activity, especially a sports event, without taking part - ผู้เข้าชม
  • strict: very careful and exact - เข้มงวด
  • structure: the way in which the parts of something are connected together, arranged or organised - โครงสร้าง
  • study: a project that looks at some subject in great detail and produces a report to share the information - งานวิจัย
  • susceptible: easily influenced or affected by something - อ่อนแอ,หวั่นไหวง่าย
  • tear: to pull something so that it separates into pieces or gets a hole in it, or to become damaged in this way - ฉีก
  • tournament: a competition for teams or single players in which a series of games is played, and the winners of each game play against each other until only one winner is left - การแข่งขัน
  • train: to practice a sport to get better and win in competition -
  • trainer: a person who teaches people or animals to perform a particular job or skill well, or to do a particular sport - ครูฝึก, ผู้ฝึก
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