Wrestling vs. Boxing: Which is Safer? A Look at Scientific Studies

Safety is one of the most crucial things to consider when starting a sport. We have to find the risks and incidences in each combat sport and check if trying the hobby is worth the risk. Two of the most common sports you could try are Wrestling and Boxing. Thus, this blog post will differentiate the safety profile of these two sports. So, is boxing or wrestling safer?

According to research from the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, Wrestlers experienced more injuries, accounting for 73% of the total injuries. Boxing-related injuries only accounted for 27% of the injuries. However, Professional Boxing tends to be more dangerous than Wrestling, with 23.6% of matches involving an injury. Professional wrestlers only experience injuries in 9.3% of matches.

This post will compile several relevant epidemiologic studies about the safety of each sport. Finally, we will discuss the risks to consider if you want to try the sport.

Is wrestling safer than boxing or vice versa?

Is Wrestling Safer Than Boxing

SportCommon InjuriesInjury RatesResearch Source
WrestlingSkin Infection, lacerations, knee injuries, shoulder and elbow sprains, head injuries, and MCL tears9.30 per 100 Matches
The American Journal of Sports Medicine
BoxingLacerations, concussions, blows to the face, injuries to the hands, fingers, and wrists, pulled muscles, broken bones, dislocated shoulders, and neurologic impairment23.6 per 100 FightsThe American Journal of Sports Medicine
Table Summary of Injury Rates of Wrestling and Boxing pulled from two different studies.

Looking at the table above, we can see that professional boxing is more dangerous than professional wrestling. These data were taken from The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

We can see that Professional boxers tend to receive more injuries than wrestlers, with an astonishing rate of 23.6%.

This means out of 100 pro boxing matches, about 24 matches will involve an injury on either combatant.

On the other hand, Wrestling has a lower tendency of injuries accounting for only 9.3% of matches.

The problem is that research from the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine said that Wrestlers tend to suffer more injuries than Boxers.

They got the data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database and Emergency Department visits between 2002 and 2005. 

The research from the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine also has a large sample size for boxers and wrestlers, accounting for 173,662 samples for both boxing and wrestling.

In summary, the data showed that out of the 173,662 samples, boxing accounted for only 47,052 injuries, while wrestling had 126,610.

That’s a big difference.

Didn’t you get confused about why Wrestlers have more injuries than boxers using their data?

Earlier, we checked other research saying that 23.6% of boxing matches would result in injury, while, in wrestling, the injury rate is only 9.3%.

If that’s the case, why are there more Wrestling injuries than Boxing?

If you remember, I indicated that 23.6% and 9.3% are from professional matches. This means beginners are out of the picture.

So, we can say that professional boxing is more dangerous than wrestling, but it is the other way around in a non-competitive scene.

Let’s look at boxing and wrestling’s biggest differences as they are two different martial art forms.

Wrestling is a grappling sport, meaning the goal is only to pin down your enemies and force them to submit.

Boxing, on the other hand, is a striking sport which means you have to beat your enemies by a K.O or Decision.

Most of the time, boxers aim for a K.O. the strikes in professional boxing differ from the beginner scene. These strikes can cause serious injuries.

Professional wrestlers, on the other hand, are well focused on their techniques. They can even force their enemies to submit without causing any harm to their opponents.

The problem is those beginner wrestlers who haven’t mastered the techniques in Wrestling are prone to injuries such as dislocation and lacerations.

This is also true in beginner wrestling matches. Since it is hard to control strength as a beginner, it is also common for beginners to inflict some injuries on their opponent.

Boxing is a little different. Their beginner lessons are usually beginners punching some mitts or bags and learning the moves alone.

Wrestling is a grappling sport. Thus, it is better to learn it with a partner.

Beginners tend to receive a lot of injuries as they don’t know the proper forms and techniques. While this is true for boxing and wrestling, beginner wrestlers tend to spar more than boxers.

This is why, while professional boxing receives more injuries per 100 matches, there are more incidences of wrestling-related injuries.

Recommended Read: While having a sparring partner is a great and fast way to learn wrestling, you can still learn wrestling alone at your home. I made a guide discussing how to do it, plus some free resources you can watch to learn wrestling for free. Here is the link: Can You Learn Wrestling Alone for Free? Yes, and Here’s How.

Now that we’ve learned the rate of injuries between Wrestling and Boxing, the type of injury also matters.

In the following sections, we will discuss the common injuries in each sport.

What are the Common Injuries In Wrestling?

Common injuries in wrestling include Skin Infection, lacerations, knee injuries, shoulder and elbow sprains, head injuries, and MCL tears. The usual cause of these injuries is the locks and pin downs in Wrestling. Furthermore, incorrect form and execution could also cause these injuries.

Well, the type of injury of wrestling differs a little from boxing.

For one, skin infections are more common in wrestling than in boxing.

Why? Because Wrestling matches have more contact time than Boxing. This is why staph infections are common in wrestling.

Of course, joint dislocations such as shoulder and knee injuries are also common.

Surprisingly, sprains are more common in wrestling than in boxing, accounting for 36.4% of injuries.

Here is a table summary of the common injuries and wrestling and their incident rate.

Injury in WrestlingInjury Rate
Internal organ injuries2.6%
Common Injuries in Wrestling and their Injury rate. Data were taken from the Journal of Sports Medicine and Science

What are the Common Injuries In Boxing?

Common injuries in boxing include lacerations, concussions, injuries to the hands, fingers, and wrists, pulled muscles, broken bones, dislocated shoulders, and neurologic impairment. The usual causes of these injuries come from the giving and receiving strikes in boxing, such as uppercuts and hooks.

Boxing’s injuries are a little different from Wrestling.

Earlier, we discussed Wrestling’s problem with skin infections.

While boxers can also get a skin infection from the sport, the cause of worry for boxers is neurological impairments.

You might already hear that some retired boxers experience these neurological impartments due to repeatedly being punched on the head for a long time.

While neurologic impairments rarely occur, they are still an issue.

A research from the International Journal of Sports Medicine, the paper indicated that neurological symptoms for boxers only happen 4.2% of the time.

While this is low, its severity is still an issue.

Here are some common injuries related to boxing and their injury rate.

Injury in BoxingInjury Rate
Internal organ injuries2.8%
Common Injuries in boxing and their Injury rate. Data were taken from the Journal of Sports Medicine and Science

With all this information in mind, I hope it wouldn’t stop you from taking these sports if you’re interested.

What matters here is safety. Make sure to get protective gear. These will dramatically reduce the chances of injury.

Since these are both contact sports, you should shower after every session to prevent infections.

These sports are fun. For example, I recently started kickboxing, and I am enjoying it.

As for the rate of injuries, I ensure I follow the correct form taught by my instructor. I also wear protective gear, especially in sparring matches.

Prevention is better than cure. So do the correct form, wear protective gear, and enjoy whatever sport you choose.

What’s next? Have you ever wondered how useful wrestling is in a street fight? I researched that topic and found some strengths and weaknesses of Wrestling in actual matches, which you can find here: Is Wrestling Good for Street Fighting?


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