Cheerleaders May Suffer More Severe Injuries Than The Football Players They Cheer For [Study]

Cheerleaders in high school suffer from concussions more than any other sports-related injury. In fact, even though cheerleaders are least likely to be injured among all high school athletes, they are more likely to suffer severe injuries like concussions when they are hurt. Shocking research has also deemed cheerleading more dangerous than football when it comes to potential injuries.

Over the years, cheerleading has evolved from the basic field chanting to a highly competitive sport. By incorporating gymnastics and acrobatics in the world of cheerleading, the sport has intensified. Children reportedly begin training to compete against other cheerleaders from the age of six. The evolution of cheerleading contributes greatly to the severity of cheerleading injuries because the higher these cheerleaders jump, "fly," and flip, the harder they could fall. Study co-author Dustin Curry noted that changes in the dynamics of cheerleading in recent years.

"Anecdotally, it's pretty clear to most people over the past few decades that cheerleading has shifted from a sideline activity to a competitive sport itself. This may have resulted in an increase in injury.

"We only have five years of data, but I don't know whether to say it's better for cheerleading to not become a more competitive sport. If it's getting more children to participate in athletics, it's probably a net positive."

Image via Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
[Image via Doug Pensinger/Getty Images]

Recognizing a trend in cheerleaders who seek medical care for injuries, the study's researchers developed a few defining statistics that measure the risks of being a high school cheerleader in the United States. According to the research, the first sign of a concussion in cheerleaders is a headache. The study reports that 98 percent of cheerleaders who suffered through concussion first complained of an aching head. Additionally, 78.4 percent of cheerleaders with concussions claimed to experience dizziness as a second symptom. Another 53.9 percent reported that they were unable to fully concentrate.

Research has deemed cheerleading a dangerous sport, and researchers have since given ideas of how to improve safety within the sport. The first step, according to expert Dawn Comstock, is deeming cheerleading a sport altogether.

"It is time that every state high school athletic association recognizes the vast majority of today's high school cheerleaders are athletes."

Previously, cheerleading was merely referred to as a high school activity without any strenuous moves that would allow it to be classified as a sport. Based on the evolution of the sport and the new-found severe injury rates, that is no longer true. Specifically, it was discovered that stunts, pyramids, tumbling, and direct blunt contact with a surface are the main causes of injury in cheerleaders, according to Fox News.

Now, with cheerleading being more of an athletic activity, the authority to change the status of cheerleading from a simple activity to an actual sport is dealt with at the state level.

Image via Ethan Miller/Getty Images
[Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]

Statistical records state that 66 percent of the high school sports injuries over the last 25 years were related to cheerleading. Surprisingly, researchers found that awareness of concussions from cheerleading may be a result of more awareness about the injury itself.

"There's been a pretty strong rise in concussion rates over the last decade in pretty much all high school sports. I think that's partially due to the increased awareness and diagnosis of concussions occurring. So I wouldn't say I'm surprised... and the more important thing to point out is that concussion rates are still lower in cheerleading than other sports."

The Colorado School of Public Health conducted extensive research but admits their data is limited to information inserted into the National Registry by athletic trainers. This means that the rate of injuries and likeliness for cheerleaders to be severely injured than their football counterparts may be much higher.

[Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images]