Cheerleaders at High Risk of Suffering a Concussion
During sporting events, most people associate injuries with the players on the field or the court. Those are not the only athletes at risk of injury – cheerleaders along the sideline can also find themselves at risk of injuring an ankle or suffering a concussion.
Cheerleading is considered a non contact sport and currently not a high school WIAA sport in Wisconsin, but injuries still happen. Statistically, cheerleading is the most dangerous sport for female athletes in high school and college, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics study. Cheerleading injury ranks 18th out of 22th for the high school injury rate, but ranked second – behind gymnastics – for a severe injury, which means an athlete is out for at least three weeks or longer.
Concussions account for 31 percent of cheerleading injuries – the highest single category. Other common areas injured include feet, ankles, wrists and legs. The most serious injuries occur in the head, back and neck.
Just as in other sports, cheerleaders can take several steps to reduce their chances of being injured:
Avoid practicing on a basketball court or other hard surface. Cheerleading requires different gymnastics moves so it is important to practice in a room with mats until you have the routine mastered.
Always warm up. Just as in other sports, it is important to warm up before practices and performances. Jog in place or do some jumping jacks and then some dynamic and static stretching to prepare your body for the work ahead.
Wear the right shoes. Choose well-fitted, rubber-soled shoes with adequate support and cushioning during practices and performances.
Don’t rush. Stunts performed by cheerleaders get a lot of applause, but they are a leading cause of injuries. That means when learning new stunts, cheerleaders should make sure to take plenty of time to learn lower-level skills before moving on to more challenging ones.
Have a spotter. Anytime someone is performing a difficult stunt or maneuver make sure a coach or teammate is spotting the athlete and ready to catch her if she falls.
Take breaks. Taking breaks from training is also vital since your body needs time to recover. Without breaks, you put yourself at risk of developing an overuse injury. Aim for one day off each week.
Follow a healthy diet. Some cheerleaders feel a lot of pressure to be skinny and maybe at risk of developing an eating disorder, which can lead to serious health problems. An unhealthy diet may weaken bones or muscles, making injuries more likely.
If injured during a practice or a game, cheerleaders should seek out medical attention to make sure their injury is not serious. Check with the school’s licensed athletic trainer (LAT) or see a medical professional, especially if a concussion is suspected. Most injuries can be treated through the RICE (rest-ice-compression-elevation) protocol at home, but others may need additional care. A prompt diagnosis and treatment plan will help cheerleaders get back to their sport more quickly.
Melissa Johnston of ThedaCare Orthopedic Care is the licensed athletic trainer at Berlin High School.