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Many people feel that cheerleading does not carry the risks of injuries that other sports do. In fact, cheerleading and the stunts that are performed by cheerleading teams can be very dangerous and can lead to permanent injury, including even paralysis and in some cases death.
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Sprains, strains and minor injuries.
Many of the most common injuries in cheerleading are muscle sprains and strains that are painful, and if not treated quickly and properly, can cause permanent damage. Much like any activity, if a cheerleader missteps during a routine, they can have a painful muscle sprain or strain occur. This is common in any athletic activity, from walking to contact sports like football.
A study published by The Journal of Pediatrics in 2006 reports that the number of injuries, resulting in emergency room visits jumped by 110% from 1990 to 2002. In 1990, there were 10,900 cheerleading related injuries leading to hospitalization. In 2002, there were 22,900 injuries resulting in hospital admissions. Some argue that this number comes from a significant increase in the amount of young adults joining the ranks of cheerleading.
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Limited or no Safety Regulations or Training
In many states, cheerleading is considered to be an activity just like debate club or chess club. The difference is that in most other extracurricular activities, the participants are not jumping, kicking, or being thrown thirty feet in the air with the hopes of landing safely in the arms of their teammates.
Unfortunately, this generalized categorization may be a major reason for the frequency and number of cheerleading injuries. There are not significant safety regulations or even standards of safety and training on coaches in most states. This increases the risk for injury and other issues simply because of a lack of proper categorization. Even though there are safety considerations and training courses that can be taken, they are not mandatory and aren't regulated--and as such there is no guarantee that the training and safety provided is adequate.
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The Journal of Pediatrics reported 103 fatal, disabling or serious injuries recorded among female high school athletes between 1982 and 2007. Over 50% of these were from cheerleading and the stunts performed. This outdoes track and gymnastics entirely. (Nine injuries reported in gymnastics and seven in track.)
One thing that these reports do not show is the lifelong conditions that can occur from some of these injuries. Pyramids and throws can result in serious sprains, muscle strains, concussions and other serious injuries. Some of these can result in paralysis, death and lifelong chronic pain.
The reality is that cheerleading has its dangers and risks like any sport. The actions, stunts and other aspects of cheerleading should be taken into consideration before making a judgment on the relative safety of cheerleading. The injuries and risks are there, they can be dangerous and severe--and without the proper training and safety considerations, many young adults’ lives could be negatively affected.