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Dangers of Cheerleading

Do you know someone whose daughter is involved with cheerleading?

If so, you may want to tell him or her about a recent study in the journal Pediatrics, that reports that the number of cheerleaders that suffered concussions, broken bones, lacerations, sprains, and strains increased by more than 100 percent between 1990 and 2002.

According to the author of the study, Brenda Shields, on average, more than 16,000 cheerleaders between the ages of 5 and 18 in the United States visit a hospital emergency room with an injury each year.

More specifically, 8 out of every 1,000 cheerleaders sustain an injury that requires a visit to the hospital. And most of the injured cheerleaders are girls between the ages of 12 and 17.

The rising frequency of injuries in this population is partly attributed to riskier stunts that are being implemented into cheerleading routines in the name of competition. This competitive environment is well depicted by Bring It On, a major Hollywood motion picture that came out in 2000 that provided an inside look at the world of high school cheerleading.

Interestingly, this study didn't include data from college level cheerleaders, who in all likelihood suffer physical injuries at a similar rate as high school cheerleaders.

While this report suggests the need for "rules and regulations directed at increasing the safety of cheerleading," I just can't see how I could feel good about my own child participating in an activity that has such a significant risk of injury.

Hockey and football are two additional athletic activities that come with an alarmingly high rate of physical injuries.

I realize that many parents don't have a say in which sports their children choose to play, but it seems prudent to talk with our children at any early age about the inordinate risks involved with certain athletic activities.


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moorea said...

First off, I never had the desire to try out for the cheerleading squad, so I´m hardly the most qualified person to comment on this message.

That said, I competed in many different sports in junior high, high school and college, and I feel that an athlete´s risk for injury has more to do with that individual's behavior than the sport. For example, some players in field sports are unnecessarily aggressive and go for the player rather than the ball. I always suffered from far fewer and less debilitating injuries than my teammates, and I would attribute this to cross training, weight lifting (using proper technique and increasing weight gradually, never lifting more than your body is ready for), getting in shape before the season starts so that your body isn´t over-stressed the first weeks of practice, giving your body time off at least once a year, and quality stretching during and after every practice and game/competition. Wouldn't your diet also affect your risk for injury?

On the other hand, I think many injuries are caused by our administrators´ and coaches approach to secondary school athletics. I think that if athletic directors took the well-being of their student-athletes more seriously, they´d be more likely to hire coaches who make decisions that value students' safety. Even little things like holding practice and competitions on soft grass rather than a gym floor demonstrate to what extent the coach is considering the cheerleaders' safety. Cheerleading coaches in some school districts in the U.S. are paid ridiculously low salaries. I think that hiring coaches who have the training and education necessary to keep athletes' safety in mind would go a long way in preventing many injuries. If you´re a parent of a secondary school athlete, tell your school's administrators that you value your child's safety and you'd prefer he or she didn't end up in the emergency room one afternoon. They can't know what you think unless you tell them; you have the right to have a say in your child's education.

In general, ending the pressure on full-time high school teachers to coach (this happens where there's high competition for teaching jobs) and the phenomenon of coaches who teach would be better for the professions of teaching and coaching as well as for the kids. As you can probaby gather by now, I feel strongly that the whole system of secondary school sports needs to be overhauled such that it serves each individual student rather than the school's winning record.

Also, it´s not just our daughters who make up the pep squad - young men are cheerleaders as well.

Finally, I bet there have been better, more realistic films made on cheerleading than Bring It On, which was a stupid, typical Hollywood blockbuster comedy, in my opinion. Its lack of originality and the way it aimed at the lowest common denominator for its laughs make me doubt the filmmaker made much effort to portray being on a pep squad in a realistic light.
Sunday, January 08, 2006 3:57:32 PM
Nikki Walker said...

I've been a cheerleader all my life. Cheerleading is a very dangerous sport. The behavior of a athlete may have some affect on some cases but not all. I know plenty of people that have been harmed in football, that was not aggressive. I personally have had 3 broke arms and a broken knee cap from cheerleading. it is not that I was aggressive or did not know what I was doing; I have been all-american 4 times, so I knew what I was doing, it is just the risk you take anytime you play a sport or anything in that manner. People stereotype cheerleaders but if the person doing the steroetype would get out there and come to 2 competition practices I guarentee you that he/she will change their mind.
Thursday, February 09, 2006 4:25:50 PM
Meagan Cuthrell said...

Ok well I have been a cheerleader for about five years now. The first team I ever saw was a team that didn't do stunts. They just cheered. Well when I tried out in the seventh grade I realized wow! Cheerleading is tough. Everyday cheerleaders have to hear about how cheerleading is not a sport. It upsets me everytime, especially when it comes from your friends. Practices can be VERY demanding as well as competition. I wish the people who said that would come to a practice and try to do what we do. i kno I get hurt at least once every two weeks. But we suck it up for the good of the squad. I know you cheerleaders out there know what im talking about. So next time you doubt what we do I will gladly let you come and take my spot for a practice.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006 11:14:53 AM

ok i'm an all star cheerleader which is a lot diffferent then high school i know but ot our gyms no one is allowed to tumble or stunt unles and trained coach it is. and the whole cheerleaders are dumb stereotype is stupid.. most of my team is made up of honor roll students this is a sport you have to have smarts for because you cant be stupid whne your throwing and girl most likly younger than you in the air, its their life inyour hands, belive it or not that is how it is. so everyone needs to be aware of whsat is happening and know how to do it with proper training thats where they safty come in i have only been hurt twice, once because i had an underlying injury then i hurt my neck becuase i did not proply throw the girl like i was train.

i am a level 5 competitive cheerleader and also a high school cheerleader and i have had many injuries due to that (broken arm, 3 concussions, multiple sprained ankles, plus more)..but out of all of my injuries only 1 has come from competitive cheerleading which is way harder than school but at school we dont have a coach who was a cheerleader and because of that she doesnt really know much ...when we practice we dont use the proper mats for cheerleading because my school doesnt consider us a sport so we usually have to practice outside in the grass because we have nowhere else to go...

and we do have rules and regulations and i dont think people shouldnt let there kids be cheerleaders they should just find the right cheerleading gym to let them do it at or talk to the school about getting mats for the cheerleaders to use

I have been doing competitive cheer for five years now and in that time I have only gotten hurt once and that was because I was being stupid and I decided to through a running full tumbling pass without warming up.

I would say yes there is a lot of dangerous stuff that we do but the stuff we are taught how to do and if we are taught right from the begining with the easy preps and cartweels. You just have to find the right coahes to coach you.

I will admit there are a lot of injuries at my gym, but most of them are from tumbling not so much stunts anymore. The tumbling is usually the kids being mental about it and biffing. If you biff the you get hurt more than when you just through it and not get scared. There is so much more to cheer other than injuries and falling - it is an amazing sport and it keeps you in shape too.

I've been cheerleading for 8 years now competively and for my high school team and I've had many injuries. Some are broken arm, riped acl, 4 concussions, broken elbow, broke all of my ribs and shattered 2, and recently dislocated a couple of vertebraes in my back. I have visited the hospital so much because of cheerleading stunts gone wrong because of inexperienced coaches and poor equipment. My school does not consider cheerleading a sport even though we practice from 2:30 til 9 everynight while football practices 2:30 til 5. I believe we need better trained coaches and for cheerleading to actually be aknoledged as a sport.