Cheerleaders Face Greater Injury Risk Than Football Players
A new study has found that cheerleaders are more at risk of serious injury than the football players that they cheer on from the sidelines. Many top cheerleading squads now perform high-risk maneuvers during competitions, with cheerleaders regularly thrown 20 to 25 feet in the air. As the competitiveness of cheerleading has increased, so have the number of injuries.
Figures collated by the National Centre for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research found that between 1982 and last year, 67 young women suffered devastating injuries or death, which accounts for two out of three of all serious sporting injuries among young women.
The incidence of injuries causing paralysis or disability was 2.68 per 100,000 cheerleaders, which eclipses the figure for American football, where there are more fatalities but a lower ratio of injuries to participants.
The number of cheerleaders treated at hospital accident and emergency wards increased from under 5,000 a year in 1980 to nearly 30,000 a year today.
At least three deaths and numerous cases of permanent paralysis are blamed on falls and collisions to the end of last year, and since then two more cheerleaders have died. Most recently in April, 20-year-old Lauren Chang from Massachusetts was killed by an accidental kick to her chest during a cheerleading competition at a local gym.
The threat of injury is also increased by the fact that many cheerleading coaches lack certified safety training. Add in the fact that most competitions remain relatively unregulated you have a noticeable increase in cheerleading-related injuries.
A pressure group, the National Cheer Safety Foundation, is calling for federal legislation to regulate both schools and colleges but also the private cheerleading companies who run teams in national competitions.
Its founder, Kimberly Archie, said: "Cheerleading isn't really regulated at all. People make up their own rules because cheerleading is not considered sport. For years it was just seen as cute girls on the sideline, even though the injuries are outrageous.
"We have coaches without resuscitation and first aid training. I'd like to see a national youth sports safety act."