The New York Times published a investigative report this week about West Point’s longstanding requirement that cadets take boxing as a class for academic credit, a requirement shared by the Naval Academy and Air Force Academy. Military officials believe there’s no better way to toughen up cadets and midshipmen and give them the grit required for combat.
Unfortunately, data obtained by the Times clouds the equation. Boxing accounts for 20% of the concussions at West Point, almost 25% at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy (where it accounts for twice as many concussions as football).
If a cadet is too concussed to pass the class, he or she is required to repeat until they pass. In an era where we’re far more knowledgable about the damage caused by traumatic brain injury, there’s a question as to whether any benefits are worth the damage done to men and women who are training to lead our military.
Blame Teddy Roosevelt for the tradition. It was the president’s love of boxing that led West Point to add the requirement in 1905.
Should the service academies look for other ways to toughen up their students? Or is boxing a valuable way to build character? Sound off!