The Dangers of Cheerleading

Cheerleaders make it seem so easy, but their job is much harder than it looks. Just ask Varsity cheerleader Toshimi Takamura. She's torn the acl in her knee two times in the last year, but she's not alone.

Toshimi says, "We had girls who had hurt wrists, who had to wear wrist guards. We had girls with back injuries, and a couple girls pulled hamstrings."

And researchers say that's becoming more common. Cheerleading for different sports has become a sport itself, and the competition is fierce.

Brenda Shields, a researcher at Columbus Children's Hospital found that injuries among cheerleaders have more than doubled since 1990.

Shields explains, "Cheerleading used to be the pom-pom girls who just yelled out the cheers and stuff. Now they're starting to incorporate some very fancy gymnastic maneuvers."

And that's landing a growing number of them in the emergency room.

In her study, Shields found most injuries happen in the legs and feet of girls between the ages of 12 and 18.

She says cheerleaders are expected to complex gymnastic routines and sometimes without the proper training. So Shields is recommending that all cheerleading coaches be certified in safety training, and she'd like to see the routines change from the ground up.

Shields responds, "The stunts should be performed on some kind of an impact-absorbing surface, such as gymnastic mats, and definitely not on the hard gym floor."

By taking those precautions, people like Toshimi may get to spend more time cheering on the sideline, instead of being sidelined by their injuries.

While researchers did find a dramatic increase in the number of injuries, they were relieved to see that most of the time they were not serious. Only about one in five cheerleaders, who went to the emergency room, was hospitalized for their injuries. The rest can recover at home.