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Cheerleading: Most Dangerous Sport for Girls

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: My two girls are gearing up for their second cheerleading competition, and I am a proud mama that they are both loving it so much and enjoy moving their bodies for fitness. But lately, I've become worried.

injured cheerleader

The image of a team of smiling girls in short, flared skirts waving pom-poms used to inspire thoughts of good, clean, safe recreation. Today, cheerleading is a serious competitive sport, and the bar has been raised so that routines almost always include gymnastics, aerial dance moves and other challenging feats of athleticism. And as the competition continues to heat up, so does the injury rate.

Congratulations, cheerleaders! Your sport is now the number-one "serious injury" sport for girls. Sixty-five percent of all catastrophic injuries in girls' high-school athletics happen on cheerleading squads. (That statistic is from a recent report by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina.) What's particularly frightening about that is, cheerleaders only account for 12 percent of the 3 million female high-school athletes in the U.S. Yikes!

Devastating cheerleading injuries include back and neck fractures that can cause para- and quadriplegia. These spinal-cord injuries often happen because many practice sessions are held on hardwood floors without mats -- and virtually all cheerleading competitions are performed without mats. I think it's time that cheerleading coaches and choreographers implement some national safety guidelines to keep our girls healthy. No sport is worth a broken neck!

What do you think?

next: Chart: When Preschoolers Are Quiet
73 comments so far | Post a comment now
Siobhan May 27, 2010, 2:58 PM

not only are there mats at EVERY comp they almost always use a sprung floor! so where you got a wooden floor from i have no idea?!
and did ever appear to you that most children are injured from cheer than other sports because its so popular? there are more athletes doing cheer than there used to be, hence the rise in injuries. gymnastics has injuries to, there just arent as many elite gymnasts competing at such a high level as there are elite cheerleaders!

Coach4Gold May 27, 2010, 7:53 PM

WOW! Most uneducated article on Cheerleading EVER!!! Every one of dozens of competitions that I have been to on the east coast, has been on a matted floor. Ditto on what everyone else has said - get your facts straight.

Rita May 27, 2010, 8:06 PM

BTW, you should youtube Cheerleading Competitions. All of the videos have mats .

Billy May 27, 2010, 10:22 PM

Bahahahah, you have no idea what you are talking about… you are totaly wrong!
Everyone that wrote to you I agree with 100%
Learn before you type…
also, cheerleading is a year around sport, not seasonal and our athletes still do not have the higher injury rate than other seasonal sports!
Get your facts straight lady!!! LOL

CoachK May 28, 2010, 12:06 AM

Wow… agree with everything being said by the previous commenters… I haven’t seen a cheerleading competition without mats in close to 15 or 20 years. If you are honestly going to competitions with no mats, it should be reported to the governing bodies of cheerleading and immediately shut down. You should check and see if your daughter’s coaches are actually certified, and if not then take them out of that program. So many rec, pop warner, high school teams are coached by someone’s mom or the like who has literally no idea what they’re doing. Never in a million years would I let my kids cheer outside of an allstar gym unless the coaches were qualified.

Catalina May 28, 2010, 8:05 AM

Please, if you are a coach or a cheer authority, don’t refer Dr. Walsh or her comments as “stupid”. Give her credit for being misinformed and educate her on how well run and safety conscious the cheerleading industry is and how every year they take strides to make it better. Not everybody is as informed as some and if you talk intelligently without insults, cheerleading might be able to keep making strides toward the sports minded respect it currently already has and rightly deserves.

Louise Wallace May 28, 2010, 8:45 AM

To Catalina.

I understand what you are saying, HOWEVER, Dr. Walsh had the responsibility for research PRIOR to posting her blog. If she had posted her blog in a way that states she is not informed, has some concerns as a parent, and was looking for input- the response would have been very different.

howardstern May 28, 2010, 5:49 PM

Wendy how wide is your anusssssssss

Kennedy May 30, 2010, 3:26 PM

First of all, are your daughters on all star cheer? Or high school? If they are on high school, most high school coaches are not certified as a coach or have any sort of medical or emergency training at all! As a PhD, I would think you would know how to do research on any subject matter that you would write about as though you are an expert. It is apparent that you have done NO research on the sport of cheerleading. You quoting figures and statistics is more dangerous than the program you have let your daughters participate in.

cheermom May 31, 2010, 10:57 AM

Our daughter is in her 7th year of cheer. Recently, they did an exhibition at a community park. Our coaches explained to the audience that they would not be doing any stunting or tumbling as there was not a spring floor and all star cheerleading takes safety very, very seriously. Could these young ladies do a back handspring on the stage floor? Absolutely. But the coaches, in accordance to the safety guidelines in All Star cheer would not permit it.

Our cheerleaders, like most gyms I know of, have very, very strict guidelines of when and how they can stunt and tumble. Safety is always forefront in every gym owner and coach that I have ever met.

In all the years we have been part of cheer, we have never competed in a competition without a spring floor.

If you would like to review the safety requirements for cheerleading, please refer to for further research. There is also a link to the study with the more current injury statistics in relation to other sports that was quoted above.

Cheer Mom May 31, 2010, 11:25 AM

My daughter is in both all star and school and I disagree with a little of the “all star is safer” comments. I think it all comes down to the coaching. I’ve been to comps on spring floors where the kids fell and got hurt but it was because they clearly shouldn’t have been trying the stuff they were trying. Now, who’s going to police that? We do! There are no cheer police other than the judges. There are no football police for my sons either. If we don’t feel safe with what they are doing, we’ll pull them - period. And by “safe” I mean considering that we have to allow them some risk. I don’t want my kid to have a broken bone, but I made it through two of them and I’m alright. And back to the school thing. Our high school coach practices on mats. Not a spring floor because they aren’t ever going to have a spring floor in a high school. Where would they put it? Who would pay the $20,000 for one? Who would put it together and break it down? Doesn’t make sense. But - they aren’t allowed to do some of the same things either. They can’t do baskets at basketball, not that the spring floor would really help if a fall came from 20 feet.

Dear doctor, I’m sorry for some of the verbal abuse you’ve taken here, but truly, if you have your kids in a program you feel is unsafe especially if they compete with no mats then move them!

cheerdivaaa May 31, 2010, 9:45 PM

yeah uhm you need to do some research before you talk like that. i’m sorry you have bad luck but it’s a lifestyle for many girls but GUYS as well.
i wouldn’t give it up for anything and i’ve been risking injury for 8 years noww.

Tyson Thomas June 1, 2010, 6:27 AM

What a moron! No offense. But simply stupid article!

angry cheerleader June 1, 2010, 7:24 AM


Holly June 1, 2010, 6:45 PM

Are you serious?! I agree with everyone elses comments! Do some research before posting such ridiculous claims.

laurenisfierce June 4, 2010, 5:35 PM

get your facts right chick!!!
i have never been to a competition
without mats before…

sam* June 28, 2010, 10:31 AM

i compete on basketball floor for my high school cheering team, and we are doing as difficult things as allstar teams do. its dangerous no matter what kind of floor you are on.

gt bmx August 27, 2010, 11:08 PM

Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.

Chase Online Banking October 18, 2010, 12:30 PM

@Markus I get your drift on where you were going there. I often think of my past and use it as a means to analyze where I am and where I want to get to. Where I struggel is balancing it all out. How do you guys balance things out?

Girl Scouts Silver Award Project Ideas November 25, 2010, 1:09 AM

Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.

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