Learn more about preventing cheerleading injuries

Cheerleading has evolved from simply waving pom-poms and leading chants to performing complex stunts and tumbling. While entertaining, these stunts bring a greater risk of injury.

The Journal of Pediatrics published a study that identified cheerleading as the sport with the highest rate of serious injuries, including concussions, knee injuries, and ankle injuries. In fact, cheerleading causes two-thirds of major injuries in female athletes.

For more information on proper form and staying safe while cheerleading, contact UPMC Sports Medicine.

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Common Cheerleading Injuries

Competitive cheerleading requires intense practices that can lead to injury, including stunts, holding other athletes high in the air, and high-flying basket tosses.

During stunts, cheerleaders can sustain falls that lead to joint injury, broken bones, and concussions.

Gymnastic tumbling, such as back flips, layouts, and twists also can lead to head, knee, ankle, and wrist injuries if performed incorrectly. Jumping, too, can cause impact-related injuries to the ankles and knees.

Finally, cheerleading is often performed on unstable or hard surfaces, like football fields or gym floors, which can cause stress fractures, strains, and sprains.

Prevention Steps for Coaches

Cheerleading stunts can be difficult, but they can be done safely. Some teams reduce the number of number of stunts that cheerleaders can perform during games, while others take steps to strengthen their athletes and keep them safe, while others take preventive steps to strengthen their athletes and keep them safe.

For example, teams should find a safe place to practice. Many injuries happen during practice, so working on spring floors or thick mats is often the best way to learn new tricks. Practicing on hard or uneven surfaces should be avoided.

Additionally, qualified coaches should always be present to critique form be on hand for those times when injuries might occur.

Prevention Steps for Cheerleaders

Many times, athletes are injured because they try a trick before their body is ready. Cheerleaders should receive training in gymnastics, dance, and weightlifting. Stabilizer muscles are extremely important in cheerleading, as are strong biceps, core, quadriceps, and ankles.

It’s important to wear shoes with rubber soles and good support. Many cheerleading injuries happen when an athlete rolls an ankle during a jump or stunt landing. Finally, warm up before doing difficult stunts or tumbling passes to avoid stressing your muscles and ligaments.

Spotters should be present when cheerleaders are learning new stunts, and athletes should always take a break between stunts. Doctors also warn that “playing through the pain” is a not the right mentality for cheerleading. Coaches and athletes should watch for injuries, and cheerleaders should take time off if an injury does occur.

For more information on proper form and staying safe while cheerleading, contact UPMC Sports Medicine.


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As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, UPMC treats a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. Whether you have bone, muscle, or joint pain, we provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. As leaders in research and clinical trials with cutting-edge tools and techniques, UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside appears on U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the top hospitals in the country for orthopaedics.