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Is there a medically recommended age when it's safe for a child to start hitting a punching bag (in terms of avoiding damage to his hands)?

I'm looking for something backed up by medical research, not just opinion.

My kids are interested to try, but I am wary about damage.

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Interesting question! I know about ten years ago, they recommended against most weightlifting and exercise that created repetitive stress injuries until after puberty began. – balanced mama Jan 16 '14 at 22:17
@balancedmama - 10 years? My Dad refused to teach me karate at 7, for the same precise reason. That was ... way more than 10, let's say :) – user3143 Jan 17 '14 at 4:07
It was about ten years ago (a little less than that) since I've been up-to-date on that kind of info. Doesn't mean it wasn't a HECK of a lot longer ago that the ideology started. ;-) – balanced mama Jan 17 '14 at 7:40

From Science Daily, March 2011 regarding a study done by The Center for Injury Research:

During the 19-year study period, an average of 8,700 boxing injuries were treated in United States emergency departments each year, and approximately 2,500 of those injuries were to children and adolescents 6 to 17 years of age. The number of boxing injuries each year increased 211 percent during the study, climbing from 5,361 injuries in 1990 to nearly 17,000 injuries in 2008.

The most frequent injury was a fracture (28%) and the most common injury site was the hand (33%).

Injuries from boxing bags apparently happen when the bag is too heavy (there are child-size bags, but they are still about 35-40 lbs, so your child should weigh at least twice that as a beginner), when the boxer has bad technique (the bag swings instead of "pops" because the boxer is pushing instead of jabbing), when the wrist isn't kept straight, when balance is off, when hands are not wrapped and gloved... There are reports of hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder injuries as well as injuries from being batted by the bag as it swings. Bottom line, this probably should not be attempted without proper training. I have found gyms that will start training as young as 8, but they generally suggest that children younger start with a different type of martial art in order to develop some punching skills before hitting a bag (or person).

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This is a really good answer, but not exactly what I was looking for. I am interested in damage as a result of stress, NOT traumatic injury risk. – user3143 Jan 17 '14 at 5:04
Just running through the math... 2500 injuries, 19 years, 1/3 hand injuries (I'm assuming that the majority of non-hand injuries were of people getting hit, not hitting)... that's only about 50 ER-worthy hand injuries per year, nationwide. And, though I have no data, I'd hazard a guess that the majority of those were actually boxing, not hitting a bag. I'm not sure I'd classify that as especially high risk, and personally would err on the side of letting my kid do it (casually, not to excess, and after being shown how to do so safely, with an appropriately weighted bag). – lgritz Jan 21 '14 at 22:55
There were 2500 injuries per year for children and a third of those were hand injuries. Also that is an average with recent years being twice that of earlier years, so currently we are running close to 5000 per year for kids, a third of those being hand injuries. Doesn't compare to football injuries, but it's enough to raise an eyebrow. – MJ6 Jan 22 '14 at 0:27
@MaryJoFinch It's a logical fallacy to assume that just because in 2011 there had been increases in injuries that those increases would continue at the same (extremely high) rate. The study also doesn't state which age range is seeing the proportion of injuries rising (i.e. it might just be adult injuries increasing dramatically, not children; children injuries could even be decreasing). I'm with lgritz on this one. – Doc Jan 22 '14 at 15:58

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