Cheerleading is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. With the rise in youth cheerleading participation, the number of athletes at risk for injury is also increasing. This webpage provides information on the most common cheerleading injuries that require treatment.
The most common injury in sports is a lateral ankle sprain. This injury occurs in cheerleading by rolling the ankle over the outside of the foot. This often occurs when landing from a jump or stunt, planting awkwardly during a tumbling routine or stepping on a teammate’s foot when moving into position to form a base. A lateral ankle sprain causes damage to the ligaments just below the bone on the outside of the ankle. In some cases, a “pop” is felt or heard by the athlete.
Treatment recommendations vary with the severity of the injury:
A common injury in cheerleading is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprain or tear, which occurs when the knee is twisted forcefully or hyperextended. This often happens when landing from a jump or planting awkwardly during a tumbling routine. Athletes with a damaged ACL often describe a “pop” at the time of injury, followed by a lot of swelling within a few hours.
Athletes should see their pediatrician or a pediatric sports medicine physician if pain and/or swelling persist after PRICE treatment. In addition:
Knee pain that comes on slowly over time can indicate other problems, such as:
Cheerleading puts a lot of demand on a young athlete’s back due to repetitive maneuvers that require hyperextension of the back (such as back walkovers or back bends). Some injuries to the back occur suddenly, and are commonly known as a back strain. Others occur more gradually, especially if the body doesn’t have time to recover properly.
Over time, repeated hyperextension of the low back can cause:
Therefore, it is important that cheerleaders experiencing low back pain be restricted from activity until evaluated by their pediatrician or a pediatric sports medicine specialist.
A concussion is a brain injury usually caused by a sudden jolt or blow to the head or neck. This can occur in cheerleading when a flyer is dropped from a stunt and hits the floor, or a flyer falls awkwardly and knees a base in the head. An athlete does not need to be knocked out, or have memory loss, to have suffered a concussion. In fact, most athletes who suffer a sports-related concussion DO NOT lose consciousness.
You may observe that an athlete with a concussion:
An athlete with a concussion may have:
An athlete with signs of a concussion should be removed from play immediately and not allowed to return until evaluated by a doctor. Do not leave an athlete alone after a concussion.
Call for immediate medical help if your child displays:
Most athletes with a concussion will recover completely within a few weeks of the initial injury. Returning to play before completely recovering puts the athlete at risk for a more serious injury, long-term damage and even death.
Ongoing studies show that cheerleading continues to be the leading cause for catastrophic injuries in female athletes of high school age and older. Catastrophic injuries have the potential to be deadly or to cause permanent disability. This research reinforces the importance of proper supervision and training of technique and spotting in youth cheerleading.
Cheerleaders should aim to stay close to their competition weight in the off-season in order to avoid dangerous weight-cutting practices during the competitive season. Cheerleaders who desire to lose weight should not lose more than 1 to 2 pounds a week to avoid break down of lean body mass. Once cheerleaders achieve a healthy body weight, weight maintenance should be emphasized.
Weight loss is best achieved using a combination of reducing caloric intake and increasing calories burned. Nutrition tips for good weight control include:
These can affect all areas of the body. The recommended treatment response is the PRICE formula:
Protect the area with a sling or crutches, if necessary.
Rest the injured area.
Ice the injury for 20 minutes at a time. Do not apply the ice directly to the skin.
Compress the injured area with a wrap. Do not pull tightly, as this can cut off circulation.
Elevate the injured area above the heart, if possible.