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Saturday, August 01, 2009

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Cheerleading Leads List of Dangerous Sports for Women

Cheerleading is by far the most dangerous sport for females in high school and college—high school cheerleading accounted for over 65 percent of all catastrophic sports injuries in women and girls over the past 25 years, and such injuries more than doubled from 1990 through 2002 while participation grew only 18 percent.

College statistics are equally grim at just over 70 percent of catastrophic sports injuries. A study in the journal Pediatrics says the reason for such a high rate of injury can be tied to the fact that cheerleading has “evolved from a school-spirit activity into an activity demanding high levels of gymnastics skill and athleticism.”

Schools and colleges are becoming more aware of the dangers of cheerleading. In 2002 for example, the University of Nebraska banned cheerleader pyramids and gymnastic stunts following a $2.1 million award to a cheerleader who now has only limited use of her arms and legs after landing on her head while attempting a double back flip. A spokesman for the university said, “In football you have helmets and pads. Cheerleaders do their stunts on hardwood floors or turf. We consider that risk without reason.”

An update in 2008 to the record-keeping system for cheerleading injuries brought everything into focus. According to the most recent annual report of the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, between 1982 and 2007 there were 103 fatal or disabling injuries of female high school athletes, and 67 of those occurred in cheerleading. The next most dangerous sports for females were gymnastics with nine such injuries, and track with seven. The report defines any severe or fatal injury as catastrophic.

Author of the UNC Chapel Hill report Frederick Mueller said, “If these cheerleading activities are not taught by a competent coach and keep increasing in difficulty, catastrophic injuries will continue to be a part of cheerleading.”

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