With the homecoming games coming up soon on the central coast, girl's coaches will have to be vigilant for another safety precaution -- cheer leading accidents. All the central coasters watch intently at the "High School Playbook Blitz" each Friday on KSBW and the excitement of the game can come with some sobering consequences besides the occasional football player being escorted off the field due to an injury
When you think of cheer leading, you usually think of teens or young adults in a relatively safe environment on the sidelines of a more dangerous sport, but since 2007 the top pediatricians say that it is anything but safe, in fact, it is the leading sport for serious injuries including head trauma, paralysis and death.
For that reason, sports authorities and schools are required to have the same kinds of rigorous guidelines as other sports like football and baseball. No longer is the most serious accident for cheerleaders a sprained ankle or a scraped elbow. It is as dangerous if not more dangerous than all the other sports. Why? Because the acrobatic stunts and mid-air tosses are one of the most dangerous of athletic activities for young people. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a set of guidelines for coaches, parents and school officials in an attempt to prevent injuries.
"We’ve recently been seeing an increase in the number of cheerleading injuries,” said Dr. Jeffrey Mjaanes, co-author of the AAP guidelines. ”There’s been a huge increase in the number of participants so it’s logical that the number of injuries will also increase. So we presented these guidelines to get it under control and hopefully decrease the growing number of injuries."
“In many states and areas, cheerleading is not considered a sanctioned sport. It’s often more of a club sport,” Mjaanes said. “When an activity is considered a club sport instead of a sanctioned sport, it tends to get a little haphazard in terms of coaching qualifications, safety nets, facility adequacy. So we’re trying to encourage state schools to make cheerleading a sanctioned sport to increase acceptability to good medical care, qualified coaches, adequate facilities and injury surveillance.”
The AAP is also urging schools to take precautionary measures such as limits on the height of pyramid formations and surfaces where stunts can be performed. It also recommends pre-season physicals and better training.
“The injuries that are the most common are ankle and knee sprains but we’re most concerned about catastrophic injuries, usually involving the head or neck,” Dr. Mjaanes said. “The average is only about five a year so it’s uncommon but absolutely devastating for the athlete who suffers them. We’re trying to decrease that rate. And those tend to occur in the stunts, pyramids.”