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Cheerleading: The Most Dangerous Sport?

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Cheerleading is a high risk sport Mike Powell/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

I remember the excitement in my brother’s eyes when he led his high school football team to victory at the state championships his senior year. Four years of training had paid off.

The collarbone and foot he had fractured as a result of a game a year earlier were nothing but a faint memory as he raised the championship trophy high above his head.

Football is a rite of passage for the average American young man. Every year countless boys, as young as four or five, are enrolled in programs designed to turn them into professional football players.

Girls, on the other hand, face a sport that is just as dangerous as any male contact sport, but which is often overlooked.

According to the Children's Hospital Boston, cheerleading “leads the nation in catastrophic injuries among all sports, male or female, accounting for a staggering 65.1 percent of all catastrophic injuries among female athletes over the past 25 years.”

Catastrophic injuries are head or neck injuries that hinder the functioning of an individual significantly.

According to the article published by the hospital, the reason cheerleading is so dangerous is because of the stunts performed. While cheerleading is similar to gymnastics, the article points out a major difference.

“Gymnastics is done on padded surfaces, instead of the hardwood gym floors, school tracks or football fields where cheerleading is performed. Gymnastics floor routines are also individualistic. In cheerleading, teammates, usually males, help throw the performer high in the air, allowing them to do more flips and maneuvers. A minor miscue with the landing can lead to an extreme, catastrophic injury,” according to the article.

ABC News also published numerous articles about the dangers of this activity, which some states do not even consider a sport.

“There were 73 of these [catastrophic] injuries in cheerleading, including two deaths, between 1982 and 2008. In the same time period, there were only nine catastrophic injuries in gymnastics, four in basketball and two in soccer,” stated the article.

Another type of injury commonly found in those who play sports, is a concussion. While not catastrophic, it can have an impact on several areas of the brain. In a recent New York Times article, the effects of this injury were discussed.

Researchers studied the brains of healthy middle-aged former athletes who had either never suffered a concussion or who had while playing contact sports in college about 30 years ago.

Results of the study, according to the article, stated, “the concussed brains seemed to be biologically older than the uninjured brains. The 50-year-olds who’d been hit in the head had brains that were structurally and metabolically similar to those of uninjured 60-year-olds.”

While not every person involved in sports will suffer catastrophic injuries, it is certainly a risk that needs to be considered prior to participating in the activity.

Understanding your child’s capabilities and any health concerns are crucial before he/she starts partaking in a sport.

Lastly, ensuring the proper precautions are being taking to prevent injuries, in addition to having properly trained coaches, is a vital step in a child’s safety.


"The Dangers of Cheerleading and Mixed Martial Arts." The Dangers of Cheerleading and Mixed Martial Arts. Children Hospital Boston, 2009. Web. 12 July 2012.

LING, LISA, and ARASH GHADISHAH. "Most Dangerous 'Sport' of All May Be Cheerleading." ABC News. ABC News Network, 04 Jan. 2010. Web. 12 July 2012.

Reynolds, Gretchen. "Head Injuries and the Everyday Athlete." Well. The New York Times Company, 11 July 2012. Web. 12 July 2012.

Reviewed July 13, 2012
by MIchele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest


September 4, 2013 - 12:13pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am a cheerleader and I know first hand that it is a dangerous sport. For all you noncheerleaders that don't know what its like you do not need to say anything about it not being a sport or dangerous. Last year we had a big stunt fall in front of close to my whole home town and one of the girls that got injuried just got realsed in June because she had brain damage. This accident happend in January. So tell me its not a sport or its not dangerous, because your wrong.

November 21, 2012 - 7:45am
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