The current buzz about cheerleading safety was initiated by a report published in the January issue of Pediatrics. The data for the article came from U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and measured injuries for children aged 5 to 18. It was written by Brenda Shields, the lead author and research coordinator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children's Research Institute in Columbus Children's Hospital in Ohio.
The majority of injuries were sustained by children 12 to 17 years of age, mostly females. Over the thirteen years studied, hospitals saw more than 200,000 injuries tied to cheerleading, with almost 40 percent of those occurring to the legs, ankles or feet. And because the researches used only accident and emergency numbers it's conceivable that the number of injuries is much higher when you include doctor office visits and trainer treated injuries.
From the study, it's obvious that cheerleading injuries are on the rise and no one will argue that even one injury is too many. So, what's the answer? The researchers recommend that cheerleading coaches need more education and should receive professional safety training. They also suggest that high schools and cheerleading associations adopt uniform safety procedures. Lastly, they encourage the industry to develop a national database for cheerleading-related injuries so that strategies can be more carefully evaluated.
People might feel that the media attention to this recently published study will have a negative impact on cheerleading, but if the publicity can solidify the industry and address the fact that all cheer coaches need safety training, then only good will come from it.