Why is Cheerleading A High-Risk Sport?

In spite of being a highly skilled sport, cheerleading may be dismissed by some as a trivial activity. This misconception is simply dispelled by statistics that cheerleading accounts for 66% of all catastrophic injuries in female US athletes.

Requiring an array of dynamic skills and discipline, cheerleading is not only a highly demanding endeavor but also markedly high-risk, illustrated by research reports that cheerleading is the most statistically dangerous sport for US women.

First and foremost cheerleading is a highly-skilled sport, requiring highly dynamic movement, gymnastic demands and dance elements, and like any athletic endeavour carries a high risk of injury – particularly at the professional end of the spectrum where stunts and performance carry a higher risk of fall and overuse injuries.

In fact, a study by the University of North Carolina (UNC) National Catastrophic Sports Injury Research found cheerleading to be the cause of more injuries to US females than any other sport. The author of the report Frederick Mueller, Ph.D. commented that “A major factor in this increase has been the change in cheerleading activity, which now involves gymnastic-type stunts.” Indeed gymnastics was found to be the second most prolific injury-causing sport in women.

A cheerleader requires the following prerequisite skills and strengths: agility, flexibility, coordination, balance, strength and precision of movement. Timing is also an essential facet in avoiding injury, particularly in terms of regarding the safety of your team mates. Dropping a team mate during a flip or pyramid can have serious repercussions, so a constant mental engagement and awareness is crucial at all times. The requirements for the above mentioned skills obviously intensifies with the proficiency of the team, particularly for cheerleaders performing at a professional or national level.

When considering the specific logistics of certain signature cheerleader stunts – such as ‘basket toss’ stunts, in which cheerleaders are thrown up to 20 feet into the air – the causation of extremely high injury risk statistics are clear.

A notable cheerleading injury incident that made transatlantic headlines was the case of Orlando Magic stunt team cheerleader Jamie Woode. Watched by thousands during the televised event, a treacherous mis-step caused Woode a devastating fall during a the first half of the NBA event between Orlando Magic and the New York Knicks. Landing on her head, the incident resulted in concussion, three broken vertebrae and a broken rib.

While cheerleading is an established sport in American culture, it is also gaining keen momentum in the UK. Recent figures show that 37% of British schools now offer cheerleading as part of the physical education curriculum, and 68 UK universities were represented at the UK University Cheerleading Nationals in 2015. Particularly with an increase in popularity, ensuring the safety of cheerleading participants with informed advice and regulation is crucial.

The importance of a good coach

As with any sport, a good cheerleading coach is fundamental to the pursuit of progressive quality training, the safety of the athlete and the avoidance of injury risk. Dr. Mueller states, “If cheerleading activities are not taught by a competent coach and keep increasing in difficulty, catastrophic injuries will continue to be a part of cheerleading.”

Improved regulation of coaching credentials and cheerleader safety training in the UK and USA have contributed greatly to a recent reduction in reported cheerleader injuries. Bodies such as cheersafe.org also provide cheerleading facilitators, parents and participants with comprehensive cheerleading safety information and checklists for extra-curricular cheerleaders, and those competing within teams in the educational system.

Main causes of injury in cheerleading

The injuries most prevalent in cheerleading are as follows:

  • Falling injuries – A high-risk product of stunt work, falling injuries can cause anything from surface abrasions and brushing, to severe fractures and concussion.
  • ACL injuries – Mis-stepped landings, a sudden change in direction or pivoting of the knee during full extension of the leg, are all contributing factors to the high risk of ACL injuries in cheerleading.
  • Overuse injuries – Common in many sports with intensive training, cheerleaders may be at risk or overuse injuries.

How can injuries be avoided?

A fully accredited and experienced coach providing full supervision and expert guidance is at the heart of safe cheerleading practice. Similarly it is the responsibility of the participating cheerleader to be responsible and fully aware of their own safety, as well as that of their team mates. The individual should ensure they are comfortable with any stunts undertaken, and that they have the sufficient training and ability to perform any given stunt.

Cheerleading regulatory bodies have placed restrictions and regulations on certain stunts, in order to minimize injury risk. A fully accredited coach will always train a squad according to these safety regulations.

As with any athletic endeavor, supporting training exercises are recommended to ensure sufficient levels of fitness and conditioning to help optimise performance, and negate the risk of injury. The recommended training and considerations are as follows:

  • Resistance exercises – This is important to gain and/or maintain sufficient strength in the lower back, shoulders and stomach. Pilates exercises and resistance weight training are excellent exercises for cheerleaders.
  • Stretching exercises – Flexibility is a vital performance requirement for cheerleaders. Dynamic stretching or yoga are excellent options for cheerleaders to improve performance and negate the risk of injury.

Correct injury rehabilitation – As a cheerleader’s performance effects not only their safety but also that of their team mates, it is crucial that cheerleaders do not return to squad training until fully cleared by a sports professional. If injured, seeking the correct treatment and rehabilitation program is essential.

Despite it’s perhaps frivolous depiction in popular culture, cheerleading is a serious sport carrying very severe risks of serious injury. Nonetheless, the correct adherence to regulation, undertaking proper comprehensive training with an experienced and fully-qualified coach and performing supporting exercises all significantly reduce the risk of cheerleading injury.

By SportsInjuryClinic

Dr. Kathleen Weber Featured on BullsTV Pre-Game Live

Dr. Kathleen Weber, sports medicine primary care physician and team physician for theMORGif-180x150-link Chicago Bulls joined BullsTV host Steve Kashul during Bulls Pre-Game Live on December 19th, 2016. Dr. Weber discussed the NBA’s new Concussion Protocol and the efforts being made to protect all players from returning too soon to the court.

Kashul and Dr. Weber also talked about how the physicians at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush all work together in treating the Chicago Bulls players.



By Dev K. Mishra, M.D., President, Sideline Sports Doc, Clinical Assistant Professor of, Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University

Key Points:

  • More than a third of young athletes treated for concussions at a Texas sports clinic went back into the game after their injury despite safety recommendations
  • Whether the kids were unaware they had a concussion, or whether they intentionally withheld the injury from coaches or trainers is unknown
  • The study shows that there is still a need to educate players and coaches about the signs and symptoms of concussion, and to change the culture around reporting a possible concussion

By now everyone’s heard what you need to do: if you suspect you might have a concussion P9250071you need to come out of the game immediately, and not play again until properly cleared by a medical professional skilled in sports concussion management. We’ve been saying this in these pages for years; every major professional sports league has strict concussion protocols; every college does too. But a recently presented clinical study shows that kids playing sports still want to stay in the game after a possible concussion and many return to play in the same game or training session.

The research study, “Same Day Return to Play After Pediatric Athletes Sustain Concussions,” was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2016 National Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco on Oct. 22. The study was conducted by clinicians at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Plano, Texas. Shane M. Miller, M.D., FAAP, a pediatric sports medicine specialist at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Plano, Texas, noticed a significant number of his patients reported they returned to play after a concussion before being cleared by a medical professional, despite medical guidelines, state law and educational efforts.

38% of the players continued to play after the initial injury

The study authors analyzed records for 185 patients between the ages of 7 and 18 treated for concussion during a 10-month period in 2014. 71 (38 percent) reported returning to play on the same day as their initial injury. Patients who immediately returned to play after their injury reported less severe symptoms of dizziness and balance problems immediately after being hurt. The study doesn’t address this specifically, but my feeling is that these kids probably didn’t think their symptoms were enough for them to feel they had a concussion. By the time they were seen in the clinic, however, their symptoms had worsened.

What’s going on? Either players are unaware of what a possible concussion feels like, or they are not reporting the injury to their coach or parents

Players want to keep playing. When it comes to injuries on the field, many injuries willssd.banner not be witnessed by the coach, referee, or even other players. The result is that many injuries require the injured players to report the injury themselves. Young players might not have knowledge about what a concussion feels like, the need for removal from play for proper recovery, and the risk of possible serious/permanent brain injury with a second concussion shortly after the first injury. We need to do better with our education. Also, players might know they have a concussion and intentionally withhold that information from coaches, trainers, or teammates. We need to do better about changing the culture around reporting.

Players, coaches, and parents must recognize a possible concussion and remove the player immediately

The study shows that we still have some work to do in changing the culture around play after possible concussion, and we also have some work to do in educating players, coaches, and parents about the signs and symptoms of a possible concussion. 38% is a big number, but perhaps even more kids were continuing play after concussion a decade ago. Let’s keep working at making this number smaller.

Big List of Conditions Physical Therapy Treats

Many people are unaware of the variety of conditions physical therapy can treat.

In addition to common ailments like lower back pain, physical therapy can be an effective treatment option for conditions like vertigo and headaches. Discover what other conditions can benefit from physical therapy by checking out the big list featured below:

ACL Injuries

ACL tears sideline more than 200,000 athletes each year according to data from thephysical therapy for acl injuries American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. To help prevent this injury, Athletico Physical Therapy offers the 3P Program, which helps patients strengthen muscles surrounding the knee, core, hip and lower leg. For those who have already undergone ACL surgery, physical therapy can help with the rehabilitation process.


Arthritis refers to the degradation of a joint surface causing inflammation within the joint. Therapeutic interventions can be helpful in reducing pain associated with arthritis, and physical therapy can also help to improve overall function.

Back Pain

Most people will experience back pain in their life and physical therapy can prove to beathletico-2132 an effective treatment option. Upon meeting with a physical therapist for back pain, the first step is an evaluation followed by an individualized plan to address the patient’s specific needs.


Concussions have increasingly been in the news the last few years, but many people don’t know that physical therapy can help with a variety of long term concussion symptoms, like dizziness, balance problems and headaches. In fact, Athletico Physical Therapy offers a Head Injury and Concussion Management program that assists individuals who have had a concussion or participate in an activity where there is potential for a concussion.


Physical therapy can help alleviate headaches that are a result of musculoskeletalPhysical Therapy for headache pain relief issues, including muscle tension and tightness, disc pathology, lack of neck motion, poor posture or tightness in the back between the shoulder blades. Based on each patient’s individual needs, treatment options range from the use of heat or ice to posture education.

Jaw Pain (TMJ/TMD)

The joint used to move the jaw, called the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ), is one of the most frequently used joints in the body. Acute or chronic inflammation of the TMJ is referred to as Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD/TMJ Syndrome). Physical therapy options for this ailment include manual therapy, anti-inflammatory modalities, posture correction, therapeutic exercises, and modifications to physical activity and diet.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis refers to inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is the connectiveLongsitting Calf Stretch tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot. Treatment options vary and can range from simple calf stretches to conducting a walking analysis.


Sciatica, which is a low back problem that causes pain down the leg, is another condition that can be treated by physical therapy. Treatment can include anything from muscle energy techniques to core strengthening exercises.

Urinary Incontinence

If you are experiencing bladder leaking or the urge to make frequent restroom trips, you may suffer from urinary incontinence. Physical therapy can help by increasing the strength, stability and endurance of the core, transverse abdominals, hip muscles and pelvic floor.


Vertigo, which causes a spinning sensation or feelings of dizziness, can often times bephysical therapy and vestibular therapy treated with physical therapy. Treatment options include canal repositioning maneuvers, exercises to improve balance, manual treatment of the cervical spine and more.


Whiplash describes an injury to the neck area that usually involves a rapid movement into extension and flexion. Often times this type of injury is associated with car accidents, but it can also occur as a result of participation within high-velocity, contact sports like football. Those who visit a physical therapist for their whiplash symptoms will typically go through a spine movement assessment. Based on the findings, a specific exercise program will be put in place along with other treatment options, including massage, manual stretches and range of motion exercises.

That’s Not All…

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to conditions physical therapy can treat. If you think physical therapy may benefit you, please contact one of our clinics for a complimentary injury screening.

Click to Schedule a Complimentary Injury Screen

Dr. Julia Bruene Explains Sports Safety and How to Protect Your Child During the Game

Sports medicine physician Dr. Julia Bruene of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush talks about preventing some of the more serious childhood sports injuries on www.rush.edu. While the most common ones are scrapes, bruises, joint sprains, muscle strains, and bone injuries, the more serious ones involve the head and face. “Injury to the head can be very serious, even life-threatening,” she explains.

Protect your child’s face and head during the game

While the most common injuries in childhood sports are scrapes, bruises, joint sprains, muscle strains, and bone injuries, some of the more serious injuries can involve the head and face. That’s why it’s so important to protect these potentially vulnerable areas.

“Injury to the head can be very serious, even life-threatening,” says Julia Bruene, MD, a sports medicine physician at Rush.

“A concussion is a prime example of this,” Bruene explains. “In sports, the seriousness of a head injury is often downplayed by calling it a ‘dinger’ or ‘getting your bell rung.’ But, any suspected concussion should be taken seriously and be evaluated by a health professional, such as an athletic trainer or physician, immediately.”

The 411 on concussion

A concussion is the violent shaking of the brain within the skull. “This can happen in any sport, even sports you don’t think of as being high-impact. You might get hit hard in the head with a ball, run into another player or collide with the ground,” Bruene says.

Anyone who’s had a concussion should avoid any more blows to the head and definitely shouldn’t play sports until the brain has had time to heal. The bottom line is no athlete who is still symptomatic from a concussion should return to play.

“Care needs to be taken to avoid a second concussion while the brain is repairing itself from the initial injury,” says Bruene. “The athlete has the potential to suffer severe damage with the second concussion if the brain hasn’t fully recovered. This ‘second impact syndrome’ is usually universally fatal.”

Watch closely for symptoms of a concussion, which may not appear right away.

Protecting the head

  • Wear a hard, well-fitting helmet for baseball and softball
    • All batters should wear a single or double ear-flap helmet, and catchers should wear a catcher’s helmet.
    • Little league batters should consider a helmet with a polycarbonate face shield.
    • Little league-aged athletes should wear a well-fitting hard helmet for the duration of the game, not just while batting.
  • Wear a well-fitted helmet at all times for football.
  • Kids and adolescents should avoid “heading” the ball in soccer. And even teenagers and adults should try to avoid headers as much as possible.

Protecting the eyes

Baseball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries in children, and the highest incidence occurs in children 5 to 14 years of age. But all athletes are vulnerable to eye injuries.

  • Any athlete with less than 20/40 vision in either eye needs to take extra care and wear shatter-proof polycarbonate lenses for all games and practices.
  • Athletes who wear glasses needs to either wear sports goggles or have some shatter-proof protective covering for their glasses.
  • Any time there’s injury to the eye where vision is affected, the eye should be evaluated by someone with medical expertise.

Protecting the teeth

  • A mouth guard should be used for all contact sports such as football, rugby and lacrosse.

In sports, the seriousness of a head injury is often downplayed by calling it a ‘dinger’ or ‘getting your bell rung.’ But, any suspected concussion should be evaluated by a health professional immediately.

Other activities requiring protection

  • Helmets should always be worn for roller skating, rollerblading or skateboarding, or when riding bikes, scooters, Segways or hover boards.
    • Helmets should be properly fitted and snug.
    • “Parents should support wearing a helmet and start the training as young as possible, about three years old,” Bruene says.
    • Adults should set a good example by wearing helmets themselves.

“My goal is for athletes to stay healthy and stay in their sports,” says Bruene. “Following these safety tips will help them avoid serious injuries while having they’re competing.”