All sports carry with them a certain risk of injury. This is something that every athlete, coach and trainer understands – and is, to some extent, prepared for. Recent research, however, is showing that cheerleading, in particular, has many serious risks that are not necessarily being treated with the gravity they require. These findings come at a time when athletic injury prevention on the whole, is being discussed quite frequently, and teams are implementing programs and best practices to combat the issue.
It will be wise for cheerleaders and their coaches to be aware of this research, and to learn about the latest injury prevention efforts.
Cheerleading Becoming Riskier with Time
According to The Telegraph, a study originally published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that, between 1980 and 2007, the number of emergency room visits resulting from cheerleading juries rose from 4,954 to 26,786. Those who catch other cheerleaders during routines are the most likely to get hurt. Overall, 66 percent of injuries to girls resulting in serious medical conditions or some sort of permanent disability stemmed from cheerleading. Specifically in college, cheerleading accounts for over 70 percent of injuries.
What is perhaps most alarming is that the research – conducted in association with the American Academy of Pediatrics – found that part of the reason for the prevalence of injury stems from schools or organizations not taking the sport seriously. In fact, it is only recognized as a sport by 29 high school athletic associations, despite the fact that the routines require intense athletic training and acrobatic ability.
Additionally, in the specific case of concussions, the study found that many cheerleaders are not reporting these injuries to their coaches and returning to cheer, despite the extreme danger of doing so.
Push for Spinal Injury Awareness
Spinal injuries, given the nature of the sport, are a significant risk for cheerleaders. According to The Wall Street Journal, they are less common than concussions (in sports overall), but are a major risk in any contact sport – ranging from football and soccer to gymnastics and cheerleading. One of the ways young players can have the instruction and good habits necessary to be less injury prone is to have dedicated athletic trainers on hand. The news source reported that only two-thirds of high school sports organizations have trainers, although most colleges do. As such, nonprofit organizations are rising to address this issue.
In San Diego, two programs have been started to push for greater injury awareness and prevention. One, Advocates for Injured Athletes, supports injured athletes and their families, while the other, Athletes Saving Athletes, teaches players to recognize warning signs of injuries. Both were started by former lacrosse player Tommy Mallon and his mother Beth Mallon.