Statistics have showed that cheerleading injury rates are lower than those in most other high school sports activities, but the injuries that happen tend to be more severe and are likely to result in concussions, according to Reuters.
For every 1,000 minutes of participation, cheerleading usually has less than one injury, and that adds up to no more than one mishap every 17 hours, suggests a US study.
The only sports that have fewer accidents are track and field and swimming. Accidents while playing football, for example, are over four times more likely and injuries are three times greater in girls' soccer.
"We believe cheerleading had a lower rate of injury than most sports because there is less athlete-athlete contact in cheerleading than the collision sports like football and lacrosse or even sports like soccer and basketball," said lead study author Dustin Currie, a public health researcher at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
The most common injury for cheerleaders was concussions, which made up 31% of mishaps. Still, concussion occurrences were significantly lower for cheerleaders than for all other sports' participants combined.
Currie said the severity of cheerleader injuries could be due to falls from high points, such as flyers falling during stunts or base individuals getting hit by falling members during stunts.
The researchers reported in the journal Pediatrics that over half of all injuries occur during stunts. And almost all accidents happened to boys, probably because boys are often in the base position and are more likely to participate in flying stunts.
Currie and his team analyzed information from a national registry of high school sports injuries from 2009 through 2014. During this period, 1.1 million athletic exposures (AEs), which are competitions or practices with a potential for a participant to be injured, took place. In that timespan, there were 793 cheerleading accidents.
Cheerleaders were most commonly injured on the head, face, ankles, hand, wrist, or trunk. The types of injuries included concussions, ligament strains, muscle strains, and fractures.
Approximately one-third of cheerleaders resumed participation on the team in less than a week, and 41% of the cases kept cheerleaders on the bench for one to three weeks. But 11% of injuries kept cheerleaders on the sidelines for more than three weeks, and 5% of injuries required that the individual be medically disqualified for the whole season or ended that person's participation entirely.
Jim Algar, writing for Tech Times, reports that cheerleading has shifted from a sideline activity to a competitive sport in its own right, which may be one reason that injuries have increased in the activity. Cheerleading routines have become more complex and challenging while the activity has become more popular. The estimated number of students participating in cheerleading is about 400,000.
State high school athletic associations have been charged with determining whether cheerleading should be categorized as a legitimate sport rather than a club activity. The move is aimed at monitoring the activity more strictly and regulating its safety measures. Even if a state decides not to change cheerleading to a sport, the study's senior author Dawn Comstock of the School of Public Health's Program for Injury Prevention, Education, and Research wants them to ensure that cheerleaders benefit from the same safety measures and risk minimization efforts as all other high school athletes.
Jim Lord, executive director of American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators, said that finding a safe place to practice is an ongoing problem for cheerleading squads. He suggests that teams adapt their tricks to the environment that is available to them.
All experts agree that having an experienced coach is imperative, according to Ashley Welch of CBS News. Other suggested supports for the teams are having the proper safety equipment, such as mats, and having an athletic trainer at the high school.
Currie noted that the researchers who wrote this report had only had five years of data, but if cheerleading gets young people to participate in athletics, then it should probably be looked at as a positive, reports The Chicago Tribune's Maureen Salamon.
The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, in its latest report, showed that from 1982 to the spring of 2013 there were four deaths and 57 disabilities as a result of cheerleading injuries.