Cheerleading and Concussions
James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. represents people who have been injured by the negligence of others and we realize that some of the most devastating injuries result from trauma to the brain. Our founder, James F. Humphreys is a former chairman of the board of directors of the Brain Injury Association of American, Inc. (BIAA) and general counsel to the West Virginia Brain Injury Association (WVBIA).
Many brain related injuries occurring during athletic activities such as cheerleading.
According to the U.S. National Federation of State High School Associations, approximately 400,000 female athletes participate in high school cheerleading every year, including 120,000 in competitive cheerleading involving stunts, pyramids, tosses and jumps. Over the years, as this activity has become more physically challenging, injuries have increased. Although overall injuries are still low compared to other sports, when injuries do occur, they tend to be more serious. In fact, cheerleading is second to gymnastics when it comes to injuries which result in athletes being benched for at least 3 weeks. According to a 2012 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, cheerleading accounts for the majority of “catastrophic” injuries among women in high school and college athletics.
Concussions are the most common injury among cheerleaders, accounting for 31% of all injuries. In most cases, concussions result from contact with another person, rather than the ground or floor. Concussions can happen to both male and female cheerleaders, but female athletes are more likely to suffer concussions, probably because of hormonal differences and the fact that female athletes tend to have less neck strength and girth. Concussions are a particular concern in cheerleading because of the nature of the activity, involving heights, inversions, body rotations, physical interactions and contact with other team members.
Unlike other sports, injuries are more common during practice (14 per 100,000), when skills are being mastered, than during competitions (12 per 100,000) when skills have already been learned. To minimize injuries during practice, teams should make sure that they have ample space to practice in, away from walls, pillars, crowds and distractions. Gym mats and extra spotters will also help to minimize the risk of injury.
The fact that cheerleading is a year round activity presents special safety concerns. Athletes often cheer for 3 seasons, then participate in competitions. Continuous training and performances increase the risk of overuse injuries.
The fact that cheerleaders practice all year means that they perform on a variety of surfaces with different degrees of firmness and leveling, such as football fields, running tracks, gymnasium floors, and foam floors. Athletes need time to adjust to different surfaces. Consequently, the intensity of practices should be reduced when athletes switch from a relatively soft surface, such as a football field, to a firmer, less forgiving surface, such as a basketball floor.
Experts say that the risk of injuries can also be reduced by being alert for tripping hazards and slippery surfaces, having experienced coaches and trainers, practicing with people who have the same level of experience, and avoiding difficult stunts when you are tired, sick or injured.
If you or a loved one have been injured by the negligence of someone else, contact James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. at 304-881-0652 (local) or 877-341-2595 (toll free) for a free initial consultation. You may also contact us at our website, www.jfhumphreys.com.
Cheer Safe, https://www.cheersafe.org/concussions/ © 2014
Kristen Havens, Coastal Orthopedics, “Competitive Cheer: The Most Common Injuries,” 8/29/16, https://www.coastalorthoteam.com/…/competitive-cheerleading-the-most-common-inj
Paul Stone, NRI (Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute), “Concussions Are the Leading Injury in Cheerleading, “ 12/10/15, www.traumaticbraininjury_net/concussions-are-the-leading-injur-in-cheerleading/
The Blog, Huffpost, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/alex…/cheerleading-a-major-cause 10/23/15 updated 10/23/16.
UPMC, “Cheerleading Injuries and How to Prevent Them,” www.upmc.com/Services/sports-medicine/for-athletes/cheerleading