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  • Writer's pictureMWronska

Is cheerleading a safe sport?


If you've been told, until now, that cheerleading is not a sport, and certainly not a dangerous one (won't hurt you: P), then this article is for you. I present in it several sources about injuries caused while training cheerleading .

To start with fairly general issues, cheerleading has been recognized as one of the most dangerous sports in the world. More specifically, it was ranked 8th by https://www.worldsultimate.net/, being in the vicinity of sports such as MMA, rugby, gymnastics and bull riding. And in 2019, sportcasting.com ranked cheerleading as the 14th most dangerous sport in the world, noting that in the US it was considered a sport more dangerous than football in terms of the number of head injuries[1].

The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, which has been collecting injury data since 1982, made it clear in 2017 that cheerleading is the most common cause of female athletes' head injuries. According to their data, as many as 66% of all the so-called "Catastrophic" injuries, which include serious injuries to the spine, spinal cord, skull or brain, concerned players on high school or university teams. Moreover, taking into account the data from the beginning of the collection of this data, cheerleading at the academic level was the cause of 70.5% of head injuries of academic players in general[2].

Fortunately, the statistics after 2017 are much more optimistic, by showing cheerleading as a safer sport than many others. USA Cheer sees a huge contribution in this by introducing many restrictions on skills that might be presented. In addition, they incorporated many safety-related programs for coaches, players, and players' parents [3]. According to the statistics published by The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, cheerleading causes a much smaller number of injuries than, for example, basketball (2018: basketball 55 096, cheerleading 23 351 - data on female players aged 12-18). Interesting research results were published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2015. The study covered the 2009 / 2010- 2013/2014 seasons, in which cheerleading injuries were examined in comparison to other sports practiced in secondary schools[4]. The study was based on data provided by The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. These studies indicate that[5]:

a) the most, because 40% of injuries occur in contact with another person (n = 793) b) 36.6% of the injuries occur when hitting the ground (n = 793) c) 52.3% of all injuries occur during stunts (n = 793) d) 20.5% during tumbling (n = 793) e) 10.8% during the pyramids (n = 793)

What's more, 60.2% of injuries during pyramids and 76.3% of injuries sustained while performing stunts is caused from contact with another player. However, during tumbling 77.3% of injuries are caused by a collision with the ground [6]. That is why it is so important to provide the right ground for training, and certainly for learning the elements. Girls are injured much more often (96.8% n = 793). The most common injuries were: head / face (38.5%), ankle 11.7%, wrist / hand 9.3%. Other studies show that in children 6-11 years of age, back injuries are more common in the upper spine, while lower back injuries are more prevalent in the 12-17 age group[7].


If these numbers frighten you, I am in a hurry

to explain that 793 cases of "catastrophic" accidents were taken into account, out of 1,109,489 athletes exposures. What is a player's display? It is any cheerleading activity he has, e.g. one training = one exposure, one competition start = one exposure. So for over a million one hundred thousand starts, almost 800 catastrophic injuries are not so scary. Minor injuries are not included here. A question often arises whether this type of injury occurs more often during training or competition. Well, statistically there is not much difference. A study estimates that there are 65 out of 76 295 starts in tournaments, and 625 in practice during a combined total of 82 1,242 players. The numbers may seem difficult, but trust me, the statistical difference between them is small .

In addition to typical injuries that are associated with trauma to the body, there are also injuries related to overheating the player's body. The main causes are: dehydration, loss of too much electrolytes. A detailed report on this subject in 2010 was prepared by Sport Medicine & Athletic Related Trauma- SMART Institute- link in the footnote[8].

So, dear Coaches. This data shows that cheerleading may or may not be a dangerous sport. Accidents happen everywhere. Nevertheless, it is the Coaches who are responsible for the proper way of the entire training process of an athlete, preparation of a gym, as well as ensuring a friendly environment for training. Let's not forget about the guiding principles of Body Before Skill, as well as Perfection before Progression, and you'll be fine.



[1] https://www.sportscasting.com/deadliest-dangerous-professional-sport-isnt-think/ [2] https://www.verywellfit.com/cheerleading-stunts-and-injuries-3120259 [3] https://www.usacheer.org/safety/research [4] https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/137/1/e20152447.full.pdf [5] Badanie obejmuje zgłoszonych 793 przypadki kontuzji „katastrofalnych”, czyli takich, w których dochodzi do uszkodzenia kręgosłupa, rdzenia kręgowego, czaszki lub mózgu. Okres badań 2009/2010- 2013/2014. [6] https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/137/1/e20152447.full.pdf [7] https://www.sportsmed.org/aossmimis/members/downloads/SMU/2017Fall.pdf [8] https://health.usf.edu/-/media/Files/Medicine/Orthopaedic/SMART/Prevention/cheerleading.ashx

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