If you had to guess what the most dangerous high school and college sport actually is, would cheerleading even enter your mind?
Over the years, cheerleading has evolved from sideline chanting into dizzying shows of acrobatic prowess — which means that the risks have also evolved.
Cheerleading has gone from a relatively low-injury activity to one where serious injuries are commonplace. Only about 5,000 accidents were reported in 1980, but three decades later that figure had climbed to about 28,000 per year.
The type of accidents being seen are also changing. Doctors are encountering more young women with severe fractures, concussions, head injuries and permanent spinal cord damage as a result of cheerleading accidents.
This isn’t the same type of cheerleading that many parents remember from their own teenage years, which may lull unsuspecting mothers and fathers into believing that cheerleading is a relatively “safe” activity for their daughters.
Instead, cheerleading is now the number one cause of catastrophic injuries among young female athletes. Many suffer head or spinal cord trauma, which can easily lead to death or permanent disability.
Researchers indicate that a number of reasons may be behind the shifts:
— More people are simply involved in the sport than before.
— The sport has evolved into one that places a high emphasis on athletic ability, coordination and gymnastic stunt work.
— Coaches need to be better trained to handle the athletic development of their cheerleaders.
— Coaches lack the same level of experience that coaches in other sports are expected to have.
— Equipment needs aren’t being properly addressed, including the use of spring-loaded floors and fall mats.
Parents should ask a lot of questions before they let their children get involved in cheerleading, especially about the experience of the coach, what he or she plans to do with the team and what is going to be expected in terms of gymnastic stunts. Coaches should also know what to do in the case of a suspected concussion or spinal cord trauma, so that they don’t accidentally make an injury worse.
If your teen is involved in cheerleading and suffers a serious injury, seek legal help in order to get the compensation you need to make sure that your child gets adequate care and compensation. For more information on how we approach things like spinal cord injuries, please visit our page.