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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
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