Cheerleading Causes Majority of Female Athlete Injuries

Catastrophic damage blamed on gymnastic-type stunts now common in routines, study says

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MONDAY, Aug. 25, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Over the past 25 years, cheerleading accounted for two-thirds of all catastrophic sports injuries experienced by high school and college females in the United States, a much higher proportion than previously thought, a new report says.

Cheerleading accounted for 65.1 percent of female high school athlete injuries and for 66.7 percent of female college athlete injuries.

It was previously believed that cheerleading accounted for 55 percent of injuries among high school females and 59.4 percent of injuries among college females. But the percentages increased when new data was used for this year's report from the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Center director Frederick O. Mueller, a professor of exercise and sports science who's authored the annual report since it began in 1982, said catastrophic injuries to female athletes have increased over the years.

"A major factor has been the change in cheerleading activity, which now involves gymnastic-type stunts. If these cheerleading activities are not taught by a competent coach and keep increasing in difficulty, catastrophic injuries will continue to be a part of cheerleading," Mueller said in a university news release.

Between 1982 and 2007, there were 103 fatal, disabling or serious injuries recorded among female high school athletes. The vast majority of those (67) occurred in cheerleading, followed by nine in gymnastics and seven in track. During that same period, there were 39 such injuries among female college athletes, including 26 in cheerleading, three in field hockey and two each in lacrosse and gymnastics.

Last year, there were two catastrophic injuries among female high school cheerleaders, compared to 10 the previous year. Among college cheerleaders, there were three catastrophic injuries in 2007 and only one in 2006.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about sports and exercise safety for teens.

SOURCE: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, news release, Aug. 11, 2008


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