For anyone who’s ever watched a boxing match, it should come as no surprise that boxers can sustain a great number of injuries. While there can be a lot of coverage leading up to a match, fans don’t typically get a view of what happens after the bell rings. This leaves us wondering: how do boxers recover after a fight?

Boxers recover after a fight by rehydrating, resting, icing acute injuries, eating the right foods, and getting regular medical checks. It may take days, weeks, or months for a boxer to complete recovery. This is dependant on the extent of the injuries sustained during the previous fight.

In this article, I will talk about what it is like for a boxer after a fight and discuss some of the main recovery strategies employed. 

Why Do Boxers Need To Recover After a Fight?

How a boxer feels after a fight depends on how many rounds were fought and how many punches were taken.

Boxers need to recover after a fight because they can suffer concussions, sprains, broken bones, and open cuts. Pre-fight training and the post-fight adrenaline rush can also wear down a boxer’s body.

In the best case scenario of an immediate knockout, a boxer may only feel tired from the pre-fight training and the brief fighting that did occur. Especially after the adrenaline of winning wears off. 

Statistics

According to Combat Museum, the average boxing match lasts about 6 rounds, with each round of fighting averaging 3 minutes. This means an average match lasts about 18 minutes, not counting breaks. 

According to Shortboxing.com, 30 punches can be thrown in each round in a slower-paced match, while  there can be upwards of 100 punches per round in faster fights. A 12-round bout would see an average of 780 punches thrown between two fighters, or 65 punches per round.

Even if only a few of these punches land, a boxer is going to have swelling and bruising at the very least. 

“After a normal fight, even a victorious one, you tend to wake up with a brutal headache and find yourself with a puffy face. Even if you didn’t get hit that much,” Thai boxer Richard Matthews writes on Quora, adding, “The eye is black, or the cheek is puffy and bruised. Lips are fat, your mouth hurts. The nick above the eyebrow stings. That kind of thing.”

According to Matthews, a boxer’s hands, shoulders, arms, and legs will be sore. And in most cases, there will also be bruising on the ribs. This can make it difficult to breathe.

Adrenaline

As a result of the adrenaline dumped into the body during and immediately following a fight, a boxer’s stomach can often feel nauseous, according to fighter Ben Johnston

Because of the adrenaline and congratulations from friends and fans after a fight, many boxers can find themselves celebrating at the bar instead of rehydrating properly, which can add to stomach upset once the adrenaline fades. 

But the adrenaline does fade, and while it may not be until the following day, a boxer who has gone multiple rounds in a fight is going to be tired and sore. So much so that he doesn’t feel much like doing anything at all.

A boxer’s body is put through a lot during a fight. Whether a boxer has won or lost, one thing is certain after a fight: It’s time to rest and heal. 

What Are the Strategies Boxers Use To Recover?

While a boxer may be tempted to celebrate with beers and processed foods after a match, especially before the adrenaline wears off and the pain kicks in, most boxers focus on the following strategies for recovery. 

Here are some of the strategies boxers use to recover after a fight:

  • Ensure rehydration.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Stretch sore muscles.
  • Minimize muscle soreness with a foam roller.
  • Apply ice, heat, and steam to reduce inflammation.
  • Maintain gentle movements and light exercises.
  • Take natural supplements.
  • Get a sports massage.

Ensure Rehydration

According to Boxing Science, boxers can lose up to 5% of their body mass through sweat in a 90-minute boxing match. 

Immediately following a fight is the best time to hydrate. Water flushes the body of toxins, transports nutrients to injured areas, and helps regulate both temperature and pH balance, according to Integrated Rehabilitation Services
It also helps with muscle soreness and tension. Some boxers also incorporate drinks with electrolytes into their recovery routine, Electrolytes help ensure that fluid is actually absorbed into the body rather than immediately being excreted through urine, according to Boxing Science.

Eat a Balanced Diet

According to Fightbook MMA, the body can’t recover properly without the right nutrients, especially proteins, which are responsible for repairing damaged tissue. 
Just as important are carbohydrates, to replenish energy lost in a fight, and fats, which help the brain function and organs recover, according to clinch gear.

Get Enough Rest

Boxers may have trouble sleeping the night of a fight due to high levels of adrenaline, but once they crash, sleep is a boxer’s best friend. The body will be exhausted from the intense training leading up to a fight and the fight itself.

A boxer should get at least 8 hours for several nights following a fight, and sleep at night isn’t enough. Boxers should plan to nap throughout the day as needed, even if they only close their eyes for 10 minutes at a time. Mighty Fighter says that 9 to 10 hours of sleep a night is ideal when experiencing muscle strain.

Lack of sleep leads to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Getting enough sleep helps human growth hormone be more effective at repairing damaged tissues, according to Cornerstone Physiotherapy.

Stretch Sore Muscles

Instinctively a boxer may avoid using sore muscles, but doing this can actually make them stiffer. Mighty Fighter recommends starting each day with a stretching routine of 3 sets of 5 stretches with an 8 to 10-second hold of each stretch. Resistance bands can be used to intensify stretching. 
Stretching releases lactic acid from sore muscles, which reduces the pain, and increases blood flow to damaged tissue, according to Disc.

Minimize Muscle Soreness With a Foam Roller

In addition to stretching sore muscles, a foam roller can help reduce pain as well as improve muscle performance, according to a study in the Journal of Athletic Training. In addition to increasing blood flow, a foam roller puts healing pressure on trigger points in the muscles, which can bring relief. 

Apply Ice, Heat, and Steam to Reduce Inflammation

Boxers can alternate using ice and heat to release toxins, reduce inflammation, and release stress in sore muscles and acute injuries. Ice baths flush toxins from the body and reduce inflammation, while steam and heat help to release the stress. 

According to Healthline, heat works by increasing circulation and blood flow to the area, while cold therapy reduces blood flow, thus reducing pain and inflammation in the area. As a general rule, ice should be used for acute injuries with inflammation and swelling, while heat can be applied for muscle pain or stiffness. Alternating hot and cold therapies can speed up healing.

Maintain Gentle Movements and Light Exercises 

While “rest is the best,” especially in the days immediately following a match, a boxer should make gentle movement a part of the recovery plan. Like stretching, movement increases blood flow and moves lactic acid out of sore muscles, bringing relief. Without movement, the muscles will get even stiffer. 

Gentle exercises like stretching, cycling, and swimming help to improve blood flow and decrease joint stiffness.

Take Natural Supplements

In addition to eating a proper diet, boxers can use natural supplements to help the body recover more easily. Many boxers and other athletes are now using CBD as a recovery aid after a match. 

A study in Sports Medicine Open found that CBD has been found to reduce pain and inflammation as well as repair brain tissue after a concussion. 

According to Healthline, other natural supplements recommended for recovery in athletes include vitamin C, which helps produce collagen and reduce inflammation; omega-3, which helps reduce inflammation; and zinc, which helps produce enzymes and proteins needed for wound healing, tissue repair and growth.

Get a Sports Massage

Sports massages can help reduce recovery time by increasing blood flow and lymph fluid, both of which aid in the healing process, as well as removing waste and toxins.

However, the recovery benefits of massage are debated in the boxing world. According to Muay Thai fighter Ben Johnston, massaging an injured area too hard and too soon can increase the damage and prolong recovery.

According to the Best Gloves Boxing Guide, it’s a good idea for a boxer to rest first and then decide if a massage is necessary. A massage is a good idea if a boxer is more sore than usual or is having trouble doing normal tasks.

Final Thoughts

Recovery is a crucial part of any athletic career, but this is especially true for boxers who often sustain multiple acute injuries during a fight. The most effective recovery routines employ a multitude of recovery strategies and begin as soon as a boxer steps out of the ring. 

Sources

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