Cheerleading used to be about pretty girls shaking pom-poms and clapping their hands while looking adorable in short skirts. It was basically something for the popular girls to do while the boys engaged in rough stuff on the field.
That kind of cheerleading may still exist, but for many girls, cheerleading has become a highly competitive endeavor. Traveling around the country and pitting their considerable skills against those of other cheer squads, what was once an extra-curricular activity has become a full-fledged sport.
And those skills? If you think cheerleading isn’t a real sport, then you haven’t witnessed what these modern cheerleaders are doing. Building giant human pyramids, tossing each other high into the air and performing gymnastic moves that would impress Mary Lou Retton. These girls are athletes.
But as with any sport, there is a risk of injury. And according to a new report by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina, that risk is considerable. Despite the fact that cheerleaders make up only 12% of the 3 million female high school athletes in the U.S., their sport is responsible for more serious injuries than any other girls’ sport.
Sixty-five percent of all catastrophic injuries in girls’ high-school athletics happen on cheerleading squads. Those injuries include back and neck fractures that can cause cause para- and quadriplegia. Some of these injuries could easily be avoided simply by covering the the hardwood floors on which these girls practice and compete with cushioned mats.
However, even if the entire gym was padded and covered in bubble wrap, these high-flying, daredevil stunts would likely still result in lots of serious injuries. It’s enough to make this mother steer her girl away from the sport. What about you? I know parents who won’t let their sons play football for fear of injuries. Would you let your daughter be a competitive cheerleader?
Image: Art Pets Photography/Flickr
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