Published April 25, 2013
LOS ANGELES – Boxing causes bombings?
An article in TIME magazine published on the front page of sister network CNN’s website titled “Did boxing damage play a role in Boston bombings?” is being widely criticized by media critics, brain specialists, and boxing professionals.
The article, written by senior editor and science/technology reporter Jeffrey Kluger, notes that while the suspect is dead, the “brain that was home to his angry mind remains, and in this case that may mean something.”
The article posits that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a champion amateur box in the New England region, “speaks to a young man with a healthy sense of discipline and focus, and if he had a violent streak, it was violence well-channeled.”
The piece goes on to note that his boxing hobby could have caused “traumatic brain injury” and points out the many head injuries of former NFL players, before posing the question: “Tsarnaev’s brain may have been similarly traumatized during the years he boxed, and if there had indeed been damage, did that spark his murderous behavior?”
Multiple media experts contacted by FOX411 had the same reaction: Are you kidding me?
“TIME should be ashamed and embarrassed by this article. It is just beyond absurd, and is another silly and infantile attempt to deny the obvious,” AmericanThinker.com columnist C. Edmund Wright told FOX411. “Boxing, and football, have been related to brain damage in the past, but none of the boxers or NFL players who committed suicide did so by killing innocent eight-year-olds in a crowded public square. The analogy doesn’t pass elementary school logic.”
Media critic John Ziegler concurred. “It is hilarious to watch the media do mental gymnastics to try to avoid concluding that radical Islam was what motivated the bombings,” he said. “If the fake Onion paper tried to parody this, they simply could not.”
John Conway, CEO of Astonish Media Group, found the article “sensationalized and grasping at straws,” while Dan Gainor, Vice President of Business and Culture and the Media Research Institute, noted: “Every time there is another act of terror linked to radical Islam, journalists go out of their way to excuse it or rationalize it. There was a time when news magazines had gravitas, now they only way they get attention is by acting like your crazy uncle.”
The article, which was re-tweeted thousands of times and disseminated across numerous news outlets, also displeased the majority of readers who wrote comments on it. “This may be one of the most intellectually bankrupt and morally obtuse articles I have ever read,” wrote one, while another weighed in: “Making excuses. No excuse for what he did.”
Prominent psychiatrist and co-author of “You Are Not Your Brain,” Dr. Rebecca Gladding, told us that CTE from repetitive injury in boxing and other head trauma can cause impulsiveness and memory problems, but said neither are relevant to the Boston attacks.
“The Boston bombing was not impulsive at all – it was very calculated, planned in some detail based on the news reports,” she explained. “Something done in the heat of the moment, impulsively, could be linked to CTE, but not something so intricately planned.”
Dr. Daniel Amen MD, author of “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” argued, however, that the brain injuries commonly linked to boxing could be linked.
“When you box, repetitive damage occurs to the brain, especially affecting impulse control and empathy. And these attacks show he (the suspect) was defective in empathy,” Amen said. “It’s important to look at the four main circles: spiritual, biological, psychological and social. Trouble in any of these circles can lead to problems… And clearly these attacks were not completely planned. It seemed much disorganized; they were out robbing people a few days later.”
But boxing professionals we talked to noted that amateur boxing and professional boxing are very different, with amateur boxing providing additional padding in the gloves and a protective headgear to safeguard against brain injury.
“It is ludicrous to compare cumulative effects of head trauma caused by amateur boxing with a terrorist attack,” said pro boxer Dmitriy Salita. “Amateur boxing is a safe sport where boxers use bigger gloves, head gear and are protected by referees, and was done by many accomplished people. This man had a preplanned plan to do damage; people should look to other factors in his life that contributed to this attack. Boxing is not one of them.”
Dean Smith, President of the American Boxing Association, said that it was simply “ridiculous” to even suggest that the sport “has anything to do with the atrocity,” while the President of the U.S. Intercollegiate Boxing Association (USIBA) called it all “an unfortunate coincidence.”
A rep for TIME did not respond immediately to a request for comment.