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Cheerleading Injuries Less Common, But More Severe, Than in Most Other High School Sports

12/10/2015
High school cheerleading has become a more competitive sport, increasing the difficulty and athleticism of its maneuvers. A new study examining data from a national high school sports injury surveillance system between 2009 and 2014 revealed that while overall injury rates among cheerleaders are lower than most other high school sports, the injuries that do occur tend to be more severe. According to the study, “Cheerleading Injuries in United States High Schools,” in the January 2016 issue of Pediatrics (published online Dec. 10), cheerleading ranks 18th out of 22 high school sports studied in terms of injury rate. Of all the sports studied, cheerleading ranked second (behind gymnastics) in the proportion of injuries that resulted in an athlete being benched for at least three weeks or for the entire season. More injuries occurred during cheerleading competition and practice (.85 and .76 injuries per 1,000 athlete-exposures, respectively), than during performances (.49 injuries per 1,000 exposures). Although concussions were the most common cheerleading injury (31 percent of injuries), concussion rates were significantly lower in cheerleading (2.2 per 10,000 athlete-exposures) than all other high school sports combined (3.8 per 10,000 exposures) and all other girls’ sports combined (2.7 per 10,000 exposures). More than half of all concussions occurred during stunts (69 percent), with pyramid formations accounting for 16 percent and tumbling representing 9 percent. Most stunt- and pyramid-related concussions resulted from contact with another person, most commonly his or her elbow. Cheerleaders at the base of formations for stunts and pyramids accounted for 46 percent of all injuries, followed by flyers (36 percent) and spotters (10 percent). The researchers said prevention efforts should focus on specific activities that put cheerleaders at risk of severe injuries.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 64,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org or follow us at @AmerAcadPeds.