Eliminating the Fear of Joy: How to Reduce the Threat of Injury

Eliminating the Fear of Joy: How to Reduce the Threat of Injury

By Martha Michael

When March Madness rolls around, it means millions of eyes are on the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament to see how the teams rank and who rises to the top of the table. If you are engrossed in the games you might not notice that there is another pyramid forming the court which is made up of a team of athletes with the skills and physique to match the players they are cheering on. . Your grandmother’s cheerleading was probably more talk than action, but today’s stunting involves dangerous feats of flexibility that raise the threat of injury to the level of other sports.

March is Cheerleader Safety Month, a recognition that it’s a sport that comes with its share of risk. While this may not match the number of injuries suffered by football or bull riding, it deserves attention.

Cheerleader Dangers

Sports fans have all seen a player fall on the field followed by a time out and the team doctor or chiropractor responding to assess their injuries. It’s not something you typically see when it comes to the cheer squad, but every year over 30,000 cheerleaders end up in the hospital, according to an article on the Geisinger Medical Center website.

“Cheerleading has changed a lot over the past 30 years,” said Dr. Hans Olsen, an orthopedic surgeon at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center. “Parents may remember what cheerleading was like when they were in high school, where cheerleaders just cheered on a team. But with the introduction of competitive cheerleading, the sport went from a secondary activity to an intense sport in its own right.”

There is a wide range of possible injuries due to the full body experience of competition cheers and the fact that they continue to push the boundaries by developing new styles involving:

  • pyramids

  • Waterfalls

  • dance moves

  • Poses

  • tumbling

  • Booths

  • Flying

  • jumps

  • ATR

The result is that cheerleaders risk getting hurt – literally – from head to toe. Some of the most typical types of injuries for cheerleaders include:

Head injuries – Cheerleaders who perform at the base of the pyramid are at the greatest risk of sustaining a concussion, which is the most common injury among cheering participants.

Wrist injuries – Reaching out to break a fall is natural, but this puts excessive weight on your wrist and can sprain, break or dislocate the bones in your hand.

Knee injuries – When flyers do not descend flat on their feet, their landing can put pressure on their knees. Stunts can cause you to tear ligaments such as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), or meniscus.

Ankle injuries – Cheer routines include running, jumping, and flipping, all of which put pressure on the ankles. Sprains and fractures can easily occur, especially in young people whose bones are not fully formed at the joints.

High school cheerleading

Injuries increase as competitive cheer teams add risky stunts, but for high school teams, the injury rate is lower than other athletes.

The USA Cheer website has a comparison of high school sports injuries rate using data from University of Colorado Denver College of Public Health. High school cheerleaders accounted for 0.67 per 1,000 AE, or athlete exposure, while athletes involved in sports supported by cheer squad members fared significantly worse. Football injuries top them all, at 3.74 per 1,000 AE. Other sports with a high level of security threats at the high school level include football with 2.51 AE, wrestling with 2.48 AE, and ice hockey with 2.41 AE.

The majority of concussion rates in high school athletes are also football-related, with 0.81 per 1,000 AEs. For women’s sports, cheerleading is the fourth most injured player, behind football, lacrosse and basketball.

Prevention and treatment of joy injuries

If a cheer squad member falls, they should seek medical attention immediately, but there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of injury in the first place. The Nationwide Children’s Hospital website has an article with a list of prevention tips for cheerleaders:

  • Stretch the upper and lower limbs. Hold each stretch for 20 seconds or more and do 2-3 reps.

  • Use your legs as shock absorbers after each jump. Position your shoulders directly over your knees, which should be pinned over your toes.

  • Strengthen your core, which includes the muscles in your back, hips, and abdomen. Do basic exercises every day to maintain your strength.

  • Participate in balance training using stationary and dynamic activities.

Similar to gymnasts, cheerleaders are physically supported by other team members, so athletes at the base — of a pyramid, for example — need to be in peak condition to perform safely. Participants in any sport can sustain injuries from overuse; in repetitive sports, such as cheerleading, you may suffer long-term effects. If you don’t change course, the injury can get worse over time and you could eventually lose function in one of your limbs. Look for signs that an injury is significant, which means you need to get the athlete treated as soon as possible.

Symptoms may include:

  • tenderness on the bone

  • Weakness or numbness

  • Deformation

  • Inability to move any part of the body

  • Swelling or bruising

  • Temperature difference

Parents, coaches and teammates can help athletes recover by encouraging treatment and decreasing performance pressure. By educating teams of cheerleaders, basketball players, and personnel in any other sport, you can minimize risk and encourage early intervention to speed the healing process.

It’s easy to monitor injuries by scheduling routine visits to a chiropractor. You’ll notice the changes as they happen, which means you can start chiropractic treatment right away.

Other Spring Sports Injuries

Millions of children participate in youth sports programs in the spring, but if they sit out through the winter, they need to prepare for action with proper conditioning. Some of the most popular spring sports include baseball and softball, track and field, boys’ volleyball, golf, lacrosse, and tennis.

You don’t have to play competitive contact sports to be at risk of injury. The Boystown Hospital website lists some of the most common injuries during the spring sports season:

  • The groin pulls

  • Ankle sprains

  • Shin splints

  • Hamstring pulls

  • tennis elbow

These injuries are preventable, but they require the athlete’s attention. Prevention tips include:

Warm up – Take the time to stretch before any form of activity. You can warm up by walking, running, jumping jacks, or another physical practice.

Condition properly – Start training before the start of the season. Tennis and baseball players should strengthen their shoulders and golfers should stretch their lower back.

Be aware of your body – From staying hydrated to muscle fatigue, playing athletics requires maximum function.

Use appropriate equipment – Wear protective gear when playing contact sports such as baseball, football, and boxing. Replace equipment when worn or in need of repair.

When Spring Sports – or, significantly, March Madness – is underway, you can cheer on your favorite team and place your bet in the office pool. The outcome is never certain, of course, but it’s a safe bet that most viewers aren’t tuned in to cheerleader safety. Although the cheering team does most of its work on the sidelines, injury prevention and treatment should be a primary concern.

The information, including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other items contained on this page is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this article is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics, including but not limited to the benefits of chiropractic care, exercise, and nutrition. It is not intended to provide or replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your chiropractor, physician, or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before embarking on any new health care regimen, and never neglect a professional medical advice or do not delay seeking it because of something. you read on this page.

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