While most of the injuries are typical of college athletes, and include muscle strains and strains or injuries to the ligaments, there are a growing number of severe, catastrophic and fatal injuries as well.
Cheerleading Injury RatesThe National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research started collecting data in 1982, and their most recent report ranks cheerleading as the number one cause of catastrophic injuries in female athletes. Approximately 66% of all catastrophic injuries in either high school or college female athletes occur due to cheerleading accidents. Astonishingly, cheerleading at the college level was associated with 70.5% of all catastrophic injuries in female sports for the entire 26 years of data collection.
After cheerleading, sports with notably high numbers of serious injuries to female athletes include gymnastics, track, field hockey and lacrosse.
Cheerleading Injury TypesThe types of serious or catastrophic injuries to female athletes included:
- Head injuries
- Spinal cord trauma
- Spinal cord injuries
- Neck (cervical) fractures
- Skull fractures
- Bone fractures
Possible Causes of Cheerleading InjuriesOne of the main reasons for the increase in cheerleading injuries may be that cheerleading is no longer a pep squad that leads cheers from the sidelines. Cheerleading has become a competitive sport, and the cheers have developed into highly acrobatic and gymnastic moves with a higher degree of risk and difficulty.
Most cheers now involve tossing people into the air, back-flips, and other dramatic stunts. These moves require precision, timing and hours of practice with a skilled coach.
Unfortunately, not all cheerleading squads have the necessary equipment, budget or adequate supervision by a coach trained in acrobatics and gymnastics. Standards for coaching cheerleading are not yet uniform. In high school and some colleges, this may mean the coach is a former cheerleader or a parent, rather than a trained gymnastics instructor.
Safety Tips for CheerleadingBecause today's cheerleading requires a high degree of skill in gymnastics and acrobatics, it's important to have appropriate instruction and coaching. Here are some ways to stay safe:
- Make sure the cheerleading coach is highly skilled in gymnastics or acrobatics safety training.
- Check that the coach is also certified in first aid and CPR.
- Only practice in a designated practice area with adequate padding, mats, cushioning or a spring-loaded floor or gymnasium.
- Never attempt risky moves without supervision and trained spotters.
- Cheerleading injury data is currently being collected. Report cheerleading injury information at the National Cheer Safety Foundation's website: www.cheerinjuryreport.com.
B.J. Shields, MS, G.A. Smith, MD, DrPH. Cheerleading-Related Injuries to Children 5 to 18 Years of Age: United States, 1990–2002. Pediatrics Vol. 117 No. 1 January 2006, pp. 122-129
The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. Catastrophic Sport Injury Research 26th Annual Report, http://www.unc.edu/depts/nccsi/AllSport.pdf. Accessed August, 2009.