How dangerous is kickboxing?

Kickboxing is tough combat sport which permits the use of kicks and punches.  Unlike Muay Thai, the use of elbows and knees are forbidden. 

Bouts usually consist of between  3 and 10 rounds, each lasting 2–3 minutes each, with a 1-minute rest in between rounds.

Fights are either determined by a number of judges who will score the fighters based on their performance during each round, or when one fighter is knocked out.

Related Article: Why is Muay Thai so dangerous?

Is kickboxing bad for your body?

Reidar Lystad from the School of Medical and Applied Science, Central Queensland University – Australia, completed a rigorous study that looked into the injuries that are particularly common in this sport. 

The study examined data from the Nevada Athletic Commission that described the kickboxing fight results and the injuries sustained during both professional and amateur  contests over a 15-year period.

Common kickboxing injuries in kickboxing

According to the study by Reidar Lystad, the most commonly injured area of the body was the head, which accounted for 57.8% of the injuries recorded, and the lower limb area, which made up 26.1%.

The rate of injuries was also quite high.   Out of 1000 Athletic exposures (ie competitions or practices where there was a potential for injuries) 390.1 resulted in an injury.

The study also looked at the types of injury.  

The most common types of injury were laceration (70.6%) and fracture (20.6%). Defeated fighters were 3.5 times more likely to get injured compared with the victors.

Professional fighters were 2.5 times more likely to get injured compared with amateur fighters,

Does kickboxing cause brain damage?

The study showed that the most commonly injured area of the body was the head.  The study showed that out of 390 injuries, one was a concussion.  

What is a concussion?


The author suggests that the number may actually be higher than this given that out of 1000 Athletic exposures, just over 4 resulted in a knock out or technical knock out (2.15 and 2.05 respectively).  It’s highly likely that a significant proportion of these knock-outs were the result of a concussion.


This is concerning because the conclusion from one study was that:

“Greater exposure to repetitive head trauma is associated with lower brain volumes and lower processing speed in active professional fighters.”

Given the high number of head injuries and knock outs reported in this study, it’s evident that practicing kickboxing can result in traumatic head injury which can result in brain damage.

What will kickboxing do for my body?


Despite there being a risk of injury when practicing kickboxing, it also has many beneficial effects associated with it, particularly for your body.. 

The effects of kickboxing training


The punching and kicking combinations involved in kickboxing require a high degree of physical coordination.

I found it several sessions before I got the hang of certain combinations and even then I still had to mentally think about what I was doing.  It was only after repeated practice that the sequence of movements became more automatic,

I found that my mind-body connection really improved after several months of training.


Kickboxing also had a positive effect on my muscle tone.  

Punching the heavy bag and pad work is a form of resistance exercise that develops all the muscles of the body.

Making a solid punch on a heavy bag requires the body to generate a great deal of force and it involves the entire body:

“Power is generated from the ground up, such that force from the ankles transfers to the knees; force from the knees transfers to the thighs; force from the thighs transfers to the core; from the core to the chest; from the chest to the shoulders; from the shoulders to the forearms and finally the compounded force transfers through the fist into an opponent. So the most powerful punchers are able to connect their whole body and channel the force from each portion of the body into a punch.”


Fat Loss

Kickboxing training is an amazing workout and burns a considerable number of calories.


Kickboxing for the Obese

According to one study, for a 185 pound person, an hours kickboxing will burn over 880 calories.


Together with a calorie controlled diet, kickboxing is an excellent way for the body to burn calories


Negatives of Kickboxing

Kickboxing is a contact sport and, as such, there is a degree of risk associated with it.  As I’ve highlighted above, sparring in kickboxing led to an injury in just over a third of the bouts that took place.

However, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to spar with an opponent if you practise kickboxing.  It’s entirely possible for you to undertake all the kickboxing training without confronting an actual opponent.  You can still skip rope, pound the heavy bag and strike the pads and still reap the physical benefits of kickboxing with a significantly lower chance of being injured.

Will kickboxing help in a street fight? 

Kickboxing teaches both offensive and defensive fighting techniques that would certainly come in useful if you’re ever unfortunate enough to be attacked on the street.  

Moreover, if you participate in full contact sparring, you’ll be used to physical confrontation. 

One of the first reactions to being attacked is to experience an extreme adrenaline dump.  This triggers the well known ‘flight or flight’ reaction which primes the body to either escape the situation by running away or to physically attack the threat. 

There is a third stress reaction:  that is the tendency to freeze. The adrenaline released as a result of a physical confrontation, such as being hit, can render your body incapacitated.

If you practice kickboxing, you’ll be far less likely to freeze in a conflict situation.  You’ll be used to being struck during your training sessions and won’t be as shocked by the experience.  


Summary: Is kickboxing good?

Kickboxing is a highly effective combat sport that not only has superb applicability to a self defense scenario but also provides a great regime to develop and maintain your strength, co-ordination and flexibility.

Sparring does come with a degree of risk and can result in injury.  However, sparring is not a compulsory element of this sport. The training elements can still be practiced without the need to confront a live opponent.  However, you will never truly excel at this sport unless you test your techniques and skills with a moving target that strikes back.


Related Articles:

What does kickboxing do to your body?

Kickboxing Foot Wraps

Is kickboxing an Olympic sport?

Does headgear prevent brain damage?

Is Muay Thai more dangerous than boxing?