Source: My Bergen.com Health
Parents, coaches and trainers are focusing their attention on the safety of their players during the fall school sports season, but statistics show that injuries on the sidelines — among cheerleaders — rank almost as high as those that take place on the field.
Cheerleading has changed dramatically from the days of simple pom-poms and megaphones to include strenuous and challenging gymnastic routines. That has, in turn, led to an increase in injuries.
More than 30,000 cheerleaders are treated in emergency rooms each year, a number that has tripled since 1980. “The number of injuries among youth, high school and collegiate cheerleaders, as well as those participating on competitive squads, continues to grow,” said Neil N. Jasey, M.D., Director of Brain Injury Rehabilitation at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, New Jersey.
“We see a wide range of injuries, from strains and sprains to the ankle, knee and wrist to serious neck and back injuries, as well as a concerning number of concussions.”
Sprains and strains are the most common types of injuries, affecting about 53% of all cheerleaders, followed by scrapes (abrasions), bruises (contusions) and fractures. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, fast-paced floor routines and physically demanding stunts, including pyramid-building, flips and aerial exercises, account for 42% to 60% of all injuries and 96% of all concussions.
“Cheerleading, like any sport, carries with it the risk of injury. While we cannot prevent injuries, we need to encourage young athletes, along with their parents and coaches, to receive proper training, take the necessary precautions and avoid unnecessary risks,” says Dr. Jasey.
Safety Tips For Keeping Cheerleaders In The Game
If a head injury is suspected, the athlete should seek immediate medical attention. Initial symptoms (of concussions) may include confusion, disorientation, headache, nausea and extreme fatigue…Other symptoms may appear over time, (from) irritability and difficulty with memory or concentration (to) depression, impaired judgment, and behavioral/personality changes.
• Studies indicate that most cheerleading accidents occur during practice. If possible, choose a practice area that has a softer surface or use mats when learning new routines.
• Always stretch and do warm-up before and after a practice, game or event.
• Wear properly fitted, rubber-soled shoes with adequate cushioning and support.
• Progress slowly. Take the time to perfect lower-level and less complicated skills before moving on to more difficult ones. Do not attempt a stunt that’s beyond your skill level.
• If you experience any pain or discomfort when practicing or competing, stop immediately and get appropriate medical attention.
• If you are unsure, uncomfortable or even fearful of a particular move, speak with your coach or cheerleading advisor.
“We often see that players will disregard their symptoms, tough it out and return to their sport too soon in an attempt to keep their competitive edge. However, this can result in serious complications and lasting problems,” noted Dr. Jasey. “That’s why cheerleaders, like all other athletes, need to be honest about any problems they may be experiencing and follow the advice of their physicians and coaches about resuming activity.”