Although some may argue that cheerleading isn’t a “real” sport (for the record I am a proud cheer mom!), more and more reports are coming out that indicate the risks of injury to cheerleaders are plenty real. According to NBCNews.com, concussion rates among cheerleaders are growing at an alarming rate;
…although the rate of concussions in cheerleading remain low compared to other sports, the rate of concussions in the sport increased at a rate of 26 percent each year from 1998 to 2008. That marks a greater rate of increase than for any other sport played by young women at the high school and college levels.
According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, cheerleading carries the highest rate of catastrophic injury in sports, accounting for 66% of those injuries. Other studies have shown that 6% of cheerleading-related injuries were concussions and that 96% of those happened during stunts. What might surprise some parents is that it’s not usually the girl getting tossed 20 feet into the air who gets hurt; it’s the girl who catches her. The Journal of Athletic Training found that spotters and bases were most likely to be injured as they often getting kicked or elbowed in the head while trying to catch the flyer. Cheerleaders are also incredibly likely to suffer from sprained wrists and ankles, knee injuries, and more.
Cheerleading has come a long way from just shaking pom-poms on the sidelines during a football game. Competitive cheering today is much more akin to gymnastics with complicated acrobatic routines including tumbling, tossing, and throwing. If you want to see some incredibly amazing stunts just search on YouTube for “cheerleading stunts” and you’ll be wowed at the kind of moves these teams are pulling off.
Unfortunately, in many states cheerleading isn’t considered an official sport, and therefore isn’t subject to the same safety rules other sports like football, soccer, and lacrosse have to abide by. For example, should cheerleading become a state sanctioned sport cheerleaders would have to participate in strength and conditioning programs, practice time would be regulated, and training facilities would need to be certified as safe. Cheer squads also would have better access to onsite medical staff like the school’s athletic trainers.
Cheerleaders aren’t the only female athletes suffering from an increase in concussions. In fact, when it comes to male and female youth athletes studies have shown that female athletes have a higher rate of concussions than boys in the sports they both play, including soccer and basketball.
A new study shows that reported concussions in youth sports overall have spiked 66%from 2001 to 2009. The Institute of Medicine reported that “The number of athletes aged 19 and younger who were treated for concussions and other sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries rose from 150,000 in 2001 to a quarter million in 2009…” Some contend this increase is partially due to better diagnostic and reporting procedures, while others point out that young players, especially young female athletes, are far more aggressive on the field than they used to be.