The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Most Dangerous School Sport: Cheerleading?

Posted by on Thursday, September 26th, 2013


Movies like “Bring It On” and “Mean Girls” give cheerleaders a bad rap. One may be inclined to believe the most dangerous part of being a cheerleader is a sore finger from hair-twirling or surviving competitive moms, and not the constant risk of sprains, strains, and other injuries. Stereotypes aside, it turns out cheerleading is, statistically, the most dangerous school sport a girl can participate in!

How Dangerous A School Sport Is Cheerleading?

Research published in the Journal of Pediatrics reported that the number of cheerleading injuries rose from 4,954 in 1980 to 26,768 in 2007! All in all, the sport accounted for 66% of “catastrophic” injuries (resulting in permanent disability or medical conditions) to girls. Emergency room visits have more than doubled since 1990, and there have been 110 head and spine injuries since then that have resulted in permanent brain damage, paralysis, or death. That’s definitely nothing to cheer about!

Other common sport injuries include:

– Lower extremity injuries (30-37%)

– Upper extremity injuries (21-26%)

– Head / neck injuries (16-19%), and

– Trunk injuries (7-17%).

More specifically, cheerleaders suffer:

– Sprains & strains (53%)

– Abrasions / contusions / bruises (13-18%)

– Fractures / dislocations (10-16%)

– Lacerations / punctures (4%), and

– Concussions / head injuries (3.5-4%).

cheerleading statistics
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It’s About Time Cheerleading Is Recognized As A Sport, Experts Say.

Lead Author Dr. Cynthia LaBella found that most injuries occurred not to the ones thrown into the air, but to the girls tasked with catching fellow cheerleaders on the ground. She says that acrobatic moves are part of the sport as much as dancing, but public perception is slow to catch up with this new reality. People are still viewing them as a sideline spectacle for the “real” sports. “These girls, and boys, are at risk for injury. This should be considered a sport, and these folks should be treated as athletes, not as entertainers,” she said. And not considering it a sport could even be making it more dangerous.

Researchers made several key recommendations for improved cheerleading safety. First of all, cheerleading should be classified as a “sport” so risk can be moderated by a regulatory board and access to immediate medical care is improved. All participants should be required to have a physical prior to cheering and have access to strengthening / conditioning programs. No cheer events should take place on dirt, vinyl, concrete or asphalt surfaces. Pyramids should never be more than two people high and proper spotting training should be mandatory. A certified physician or trainer should be on-site at all practices and competitions, and emergency plans should be put in place.

Get Your Emergency Plan In Place: Call Our NYC Office!

Should something happen to a cheerleader, they need a sports medicine clinic to visit. We treat sprains, strains, foot and ankle injuries, and back and knee problems. We have x-ray technicians, physical therapists, podiatrists, and a full suite of medical staff on hand to help our NYC cheerleaders achieve immediate pain relief and long-term recovery.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.