Cheerleading Injuries

July 7, 2014

Cheerleading injuries are on the rise. For this reason, it is important that administrators, parents, coaches, and medical personnel recognize that cheerleaders must received appropriate medical attention just like any other athlete.

Shields and Smith noted that from 1990-2003 cheerleading saw an increase in participation from 3.04 million to 3.58 million while also seeing a 110% increase in injuries. Cheerleaders suffer many different injuries including sprains and strains, but can also suffer broken bones and even more serious injuries. Approximately 65% of catastrophic injuries in female high school athletics have been attributed to cheerleading. Why is that?

There have been many reasons proposed to be a cause of these injuries. The biggest one is the drastic change that cheerleading has undergone in the last 30 years. Back then cheerleaders were on the sidelines of the big game leading the student section in cheers. Today, they’ve incorporated various stunts and tumbling routines. These activities seem to continually increase in difficulty and risk. Another cause for injuries is the improper supervision. It is important that cheerleading coaches be trained in spotting and the various techniques of the sport. There are various organizations out there who offer certifications and training and I hope that coaches take advantage of that.

So what injuries are there?

Shields and Smith completed a study in 2006-2007 to compile some of this data. Lower body injuries accounted for 30% while upper body injuries accounted for 21%. The ankle was most often injured followed by the knee and neck. Sprains and strains accounted for the majority of the injuries but fractures and head injuries also occurred. Their study also found that injuries happened most often in cheerleading competitions (2.1 injuries per 1,000 exposures). Practice had an injury rate of 1/1000 AE while pep rallies and games accounted for 0.5/1000 AE each. 360_cheerleader_injury_0814

The last category of injuries that we must recognize in cheerleading are overuse injuries associated with the plyometric nature of the sport. Field et al completed a study in female adolescents and found that 3.9% developed a stress fracture. Cheerleaders and gymnasts were specifically mentioned as groups to be aware of stress fractures. Thein-Nissenbaum et al addressed the female athlete triad as well which must be considered. Cheerleading certainly falls into the category of aesthetic sport. These types of sports are common for menstrual irregularities, musculoskeletal injury, and disordered eating.

As parents, administrators, coaches, or healthcare professionals, it is certainly important that we consider many things in cheerleading. These girls put in a lot of effort each day and we must recognize that along with that comes injuries. As with all athletes, I believe it is important that we provide cheerleaders with access to athletic trainers and other qualified medical personnel.

 

References

1)    Shields BJ, Smith GA. Cheerleading-related injuries to children 5 to 18 years of age: United States, 1990-2002. Pediatrics. 2006;117(1):122-129.

2)    Shields BJ, Smith GA. Cheerleading-related injuries in the United States: A prospective surveillance study. Journal of Athletic Training. 2009;44(6):567-577.

3)    Shields BJ, Smith GA. Epidemiology of cheerleading stunt-related injuries in the United States. Journal of Athletic Training. 2009;44(6):586-594.

4)    Shields BJ, Smith GA. Epidemiology of cheerleading fall-related injuries in the United States. Journal of Athletic Training. 2009;44(6):578-585.

5)    Field AE, Gordon CM, Pierce LM, Ramappa A, Kocher MS. Prospective Study of Physical Activity and Risk of Developing a Stress Fracture Among Preadolescent and Adolescent Girls. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011; 165(8): 723-728.

6)    Thein-Nissenbaum JM, Rauh MJ, Carr KE, Loud KJ, McGuine TA. Menstrual irregularity and musculoskeletal injury in female high school athletes. Journal of Athletic Training. 2012;47(1):74-82.

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