Under all its different names and forms, kickboxing has really jumped into the forefront of the fitness industry over the past few years, and it looks like this trend will continue. From 1998 to 1999, the number of fitness facilities offering kickboxing-style programs climbed 25 percent for boxing-based and 24 percent for martial-arts-based group fitness activities (IDEA 1999; IDEA 2000).
With kickboxing becoming more widespread, what is happening to injury rates? As in any sport that gets adapted for the group fitness arena, participants are likely to injure themselves--especially in the first few years, when enthusiasm precedes research. Here's a look at some of the injuries being reported; what is indicated by the research findings on the various martial arts forms from which kickboxing is derived; and what can be done to help prevent injuries.
WHAT IS KICKBOXING?
Historically, kickboxing has been associated with the martial arts. In that sense, kickboxing can include elements from karate, tae kwon do, kung fu, Thai kickboxing, hapkido, judo, aikido, jujitsu, American boxing and other types of combat and self-defense sports. Some of these are considered defense oriented; others are geared more toward combat. Quite a few of the moves used in today's kickboxing classes have been adapted from karate. Karate has many forms, just as the terms aerobics and group fitness encompass many kinds of aerobic exercise.
As kickboxing has caught the fancy of group fitness instructors and personal trainers, they have developed it into a format suitable for mainstream exercisers. Thus, the definition of kickboxinghas expanded to include a workout for people whose goal is to improve fitness and health rather than acquire combat or self-defense skills (Burks & Satterfield 1998). Now, group fitness classes that incorporate elements of some or many of the above-mentioned traditional martial arts styles are available to people who are not martial artists. To this population, kickboxing means a cardiovascular workout that uses the hands, feet, elbows and knees in ways that mimic traditional martial arts. In this article, the term kickboxing is used to refer to classes for the general population.
Only a few studies have been conducted directly on injuries in fitness-oriented kickboxing classes. Therefore, in addition to looking at this research, we need to consider studies that have been done on the more traditional martial arts. Then we can evaluate the injuries associated with the moves on which kickboxing is based and be prepared to expect similar injuries in the fitness arena. As fitness kickboxing establishes its own history, direct research and studies will shine more light on injury trends.
Here are two studies that have been conducted on fitness kickboxing participants:
SAFAX Study. A study at Idaho State University focused specifically on group fitness kickboxing participants (McKinneyVialpando 1999). Five men and 55 women were asked to perform various noncontact kicks and punches, such as jabs, crosses, upper cuts, hooks, elbow strikes and front, side, back, roundhouse, crescent, jump and axe kicks. The participants, whose ages ranged from 18 to...
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