New! Cheerleading Injuries More Serious Than Previously Thought
Before we start, 2 questions:
1. Who is the cheerleader in the picture?
2. Which male physician at Pediatric Associates was a cheerleader?
(answers at the end of the article)
A new report on cheerleading injuries has generated a bit of controversy. The 25th annual report from the University of North Carolina-based National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research (NCCSI) shows that cheerleading accounted for 65% of all catastrophic (fatal and serious) injuries among high school and college females over the past 25 years. The total number of all injuries (serious and non-serious combined) caused by cheerleading, however, is actually less than some other female sports including gymnastics and ice hockey.
Cheerleading is a sport that has grown tremendously over the past 2 decades. Presently over 95,000 girls and over 2,000 boys participate at the high school level. Pop Warner estimates that 200,000 girls may engage in cheerleading in 41 states and several countries in their organization alone. Contributing also is the explosive growth of All-Star Cheerleading which may have over a million cheerleaders in their organization.
Unfortunately, for many years now, we have been reading about and witnessing an alarming increase in cheer-related injuries. Back in 2006, a study in the Journal of Pediatrics reported that the number of cheer-related injuries doubled from 1990-2002. This resulted in 16,000 ER visits for cheerlearders between the ages of 5 -18. The NCAA reports that 25% of insurance expendatures for treatment of college atheletes went for cheerleader injuries.
This new report from the NCCSI mentioned above, however has some good news in it along with a big load of bad news. First the bad news. Cheerleading clearly has accounted for more catastrophic injuries in the past 25 years at both the high school and college level (93 total) than the next highest sports-gymnastics (11) and track (8). The good news is that the catastrophic injuries went from 11 in 2005 down to 5 in 2006. The 2005 catastrophic injury rate for cheerleading was, however, the highest recorded in the past 25 years.
The reasons for the increasing injury rate are clear. Cheerleading has gone from a dance-movement activity to a high-flying gymnastic activity. Many believe that the increasing popularity and push to do bigger and better stunts had outpaced safety concerns. Not enough coaches were adequately trained to keep up with the increasing complexity of the sport and there were not enough safe places to practice. This, fortunately seems to be changing. Organizations such as the National Cheer Safety Foundation, and the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA) have increased awareness in cheerleading safety. The AACCA, for example, in association with the National Federation of High Schools has placed restrictions on certain stunts and other skills at both the college and high school level. In addition, there are movements to get cheerleading classified as a sport (only about 20 states do so now) to increase safety regulations, coaching qualifications, and budgetary allocations.
So what are parents to do?
Parents need to be aware of who is coaching their children in cheerleading, what certification they have earned, and what experience they have. This is true at the College, High School, All-Star and even Pop Warner level. The USASF, for instance has an extensive list of safety regulations and rules based on age and level of experience. Find out where the practices are being held, watch to be sure there is adequate supervision and a medical emergency plan. Discourage backyard and other informal practices, away from safe facilities and supervision. Be familiar with the NCSF and AACCA guidelines and darn well make sure the cheer coachs know about them.
Cheerleading has come along way since the first cheerleader (a male) led a University of Minnesota crowd in 1898 to cheer for the football team. Now cheerleading is it's own sport, one that will continue to require expert supervision and vigilance on the part of the cheerleader, the coaches and parents.
Answers to questions:
1. President George W. Bush
2. Dr. Vitale (ask him to show you his cheerleading picture)