A story in the Dallas Morning News about the dangers of high school cheerleading certainly surprised me, and I imagine that many other parents will be equally surprised and dismayed. The article shows that cheerleading accounted for two-thirds of sports-related deaths or serious injuries to high school girls over the past 25 years, according to a new national study. Here are excerpts from the article:
It’s because cheerleading increasingly requires complex – and dangerous – gymnastics stunts, said report author Frederick Mueller, who directs the University of North Carolina’s National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research in Chapel Hill, N.C.
“Many of the coaches weren’t ready for that kind of change and weren’t ready to teach those kinds of activities” when cheerleading shifted away from merely pom-poms and chant-leading, Mueller said.
Today’s cheerleaders perform such athletic feats as the basket toss, where a cheerleader is thrown 20 feet in the air and then caught in her teammates’ interlocked arms. There’s also the helicopter toss, where a cheerleader makes a 180-degree, helicopter-blade rotation after being flung in the air.
By way of comparison, last year’s rate for catastrophic injuries in cheerleading was 2.0 injuries out of 100,000 athletes. For football, it was 3.2 injuries out of 100,000 athletes, Mueller said.
By his study’s tally, 103 female high school students suffered sports-related catastrophic injuries – deaths, permanent disabilities and serious injuries such as skull fractures – between 1982 and 2007. Of that number, 67 were cheerleaders.
After cheerleading came gymnastics, with nine injuries, and track, with seven.