Cheerleading a much more dangerous sport these days

Cheering during sporting events has changed radically over the past ten years. Young girls no longer wave pompoms while leading rhythmic cheers for their team.

Cheerleading has become a performance that captures the attention of the entire audience. Tumbling, jumping and spectacular human formations are now the norm.

Participants consist of powerful men and women who provide a base for the formations, as well as petite “flyers.”

Cheerleading is a collegiate scholarship sport and not just a sideshow.

As the sport has become more athletic and spectacular, the frequency and severity of injuries related to cheerleading have also climbed.

A recent study in the medical journal Pediatrics documented over 200,000 emergency room visits for cheerleading injuries. This study covered a period of 13 years with most injuries involving teenage girls. Since the study only looked at injuries requiring hospital care, it is believed the injury rate is much higher when considering visits to physician offices and urgent care centers. The principal injuries are musculoskeletal but neurologic injuries like concussion and spinal trauma are increasingly common.

In some states, cheerleading is not a sanctioned sport. This often leaves cheerleaders without medical support and safety requirements like in other competitive sports.

Martha Davis is a cheerleading parent whose 11-year-old daughter, Morgan, has been competing for the past four years with the Impact All-Stars. Practice requires about 12 hours per week in addition to competitions. Some cheerleaders begin as young as age four.

A major factor contributing to the high rate of injury in cheerleading is the increased level of risk associated with the stunts performed. Since becoming more competitive and drawing national TV coverage, the performances have become more breathtaking and dangerous.

Some basic guidelines for parents and athletes:

• Make sure your cheerleading coach is certified and properly trained. This training should include first aid certification.
• Practice stunts in a gym with proper supervision and equipment.
• Get a physical before participating.

This weekend the best regional cheerleading squads will be competing at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Participants range from the very young to highly competitive collegians. It promises to be an exciting and safe performance.

If you want further information on cheerleading, listen to the podcast at Norwich Bulletin or Backus Hospital. Post any comments you have on this blog.

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