Cheerleading is a popular form of physical activity in the U.S. with an estimated 2.8 million elementary and high school kids participating in the sport each year. While pompoms and fancy uniforms may define cheerleading for some, the activity actually involves a tremendous amount of skill and athletic conditioning.
Cheerleaders need to build up a lot of core strength, and they also need strong legs and arms. It requires a lot of stretching and conditioning to build up the endurance needed to be a cheerleader. In addition, cheerleading involves grace, flexibility and balance, along with the ability to memorize often complicated routines. Cheerleaders often practice jumping and tumbling characteristic of gymnastics. They need a lot of endurance and be energetic and creative, thinking up new ways to create excitement and team spirit.
Common injuries that cheerleaders may experience are sometimes divided into two groupings, traumatic and overuse injuries. Common traumatic injuries include anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, ankle sprains, and wrist fractures. Injuries due to overuse among cheerleaders include tendonitis in both the shoulder and the wrist. While head and neck injuries may generate heightened concern due to the possible long-term damages, these make up only about 7% of the total number of cheerleading-related injuries.
Cheerleading groups often break kids up into flyers and bases. Flyers are the kids that are thrown into the air to do stunts, while bases support and catch the flyers, propelling and lifting them as needed. Injuries resulting from trauma more often occur among flyers, while overuse injuries are more common for base cheerleaders trying to support.
In order to prevent cheerleading injuries, strengthening is an important part of regular practice. Strengthening exercises are particularly important for your child if he or she is participating in cheerleading for more than one consecutive season since this raises the risk of injury due to overuse.
If your child has a cheerleading injury from overuse, it is important that they receive a quick diagnosis along with physical therapy. A board certified orthopaedic surgeon can quickly and effectively diagnosis a sports injury due to overuse. Cross training and aquatic therapy are sometimes recommended for speedy healing. If your child suffers from a traumatic injury due to cheerleading, like an ACL tear or a wrist fracture, they may need orthopedic surgery.
As always, it is more desirable to prevent a sports injury in the first place than to suffer with the aftermath of a painful injury. Find out more about preventing common cheerleading and related sports injuries like an ACL injury.
ACL injury prevention programs are often very effective, focusing on things like posterior chain strengthening, lower back muscle groups, and correct landing mechanics.