Cheerleading Dangers

While a large part of cheerleading is focused on, well, spreading cheer, there are a few dangers associated with the sport. Depending on the study, it is ranked as one of the sports with the highest number of injuries. Considering it is typically a year-round activity, cheerleaders are practicing and performing longer than most other sports, as there is not really an off-season.

March is National Cheerleading Safety Month, and UPMC Children's Community Pediatrics wants to warn parents on a few of the dangers associated with the sport and ways to support your child.

On the brain

If a cheerleader suffers a fall during a gymnastics stunt, is dropped from a mount, or suffers a forceful bump or blow to the head or body, she is at risk for concussion. Coaches, parents and fellow cheerleaders should be alert to these types of accidents, and be on the lookout if a cheerleader starts to exhibit any of the following signs:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Coordination or balance issues
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Light and noise sensitivity
  • Feelings of sluggishness
  • Memory or concentration problems

If you think your child may have suffered a concussion, it is important they receive medical attention immediately. Services such as ImPACT® testing allow for better concussion management, and you should consider having your child Baseline ImPACT® tested.

On the body

More than half of cheerleading injuries are strains or sprains on the body. Because cheerleaders frequently perform gymnastics stunts, they are more prone to strains and sprains of the ankles, neck, lower back, knee or wrists.

To avoid these injuries, it is vital that cheerleaders do proper strength training and conditioning. Through routine workouts, they can strengthen their bodies and increase their overall stamina.

On the mind

The media and general peer pressure can have a great effect on the teenage audience, and even more so on cheerleaders. Scientific studies show that many adolescent competitive cheerleaders experience weight-related pressures, and many say they feel dissatisfied with their bodies or have engaged in disordered eating behaviors. What causes these feelings towards body image? High school cheerleaders reported that the uniform causes the most pressure, followed by peers and stunt partners.

To encourage your daughter to be secure in her own skin, the study showed that being a positive influence was one of the best ways. Mothers or other female-influences that did not focus heavily on their own bodies allow younger girls to feel more confident about themselves.

Maintaining a positive environment can have a great impact on your daughter. If you’re concerned that she is too focused on her weight or image, know that UPMC CCP has nutrition specialists available to discuss such matters.