Cheerleading is a physically demanding sport, much like ballet or gymnastics. Sports medicine specialists at CHOC Children’s regularly treat common sports injuries like ankle sprains and tendinitis, but say athletes may be overlooking some of the more serious injuries, and ways to avoid them, according to Dr. Jonathan Minor.
Stress fractures in the feet, shins and back, herniated discs, spinal cord and vertebral injuries, elbow and shoulder dislocations, concussions and major fractures, are some of the other potential injuries athletes, parents and coaches should be aware of and monitor for, says Minor.
Since each member of a cheer squad plays a unique role, they’re exposed to different potentials for injury. Flyers, bases and spotters rely on one another in teamwork to safely perform stunts and poses. One slip up could mean foot coming into contact with a teammate’s head leading to a concussion, or a fall to the ground with a major injury.
Like many other sports, youth cheerleaders spend many hours each week working together and developing teamwork that depends on a sense of trust and communication in order to perform with perfection. But this can often lead to overuse injuries, says Minor. Overuse injuries are becoming more common in youth sports because increasing pressure to compete at a higher level leads athletes to specialize in one sport at a younger age, as opposed to trying other activities in their off season. Learn how to prevent overuse injuries.
Much like gymnastics, running, diving, figure skating and dance, among other sports, there is an aesthetic look that the sport cultivates, such as low body weight and a slim build. The pressure of appearance and the rewards of recognition, says Minor, can promote unhealthy eating behaviors and disorders. This can lead to broken bones, stress fractures and muscle strains because bones and muscles don’t properly recover from stress and demands. Learn more about the warning signs of eating disorders.
Although cheerleaders can suffer serious sports injuries due to the physical demands they meet that are unparalleled in other sports, safety and proper education when performing stunts, as well as communication with teammates, is paramount to preventing these injuries.
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