Cheerleading Risks Should Be Recognized

CHICAGO, Aug. 3 (UPI) — A U.S. neurological surgeon says there needs to be greater awareness of the injury risks of cheerleading.

Dr. Gail Rousseau, a Chicago-area neurosurgeon and spokeswoman for the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, says cheerleading has changed drastically in the last 20 years and become a highly acrobatic sport.

Most of the reported concussions and closed-head injuries — 96 percent — were preceded by the cheerleader performing a stunt. For instance, a 17-year-old girl suffered a compression neck fracture when her cheerleading teammate fell off the pyramid on top of her.

“We decided to focus on this topic because there needs to be greater awareness about the potentially devastating consequences of head and spinal cord injuries associated with cheerleading,” Rousseau says in a statement.

Rousseau says a number of schools at the high school and college level are limiting the types of stunts that can be attempted by their cheerleaders and instituting rules and safety guidelines that should apply to both practice and competition. Examples include a height restriction on human pyramids and guidelines for the number of spotters present for each person lifted about shoulder level.

Rousseau and colleagues advise:

– Providing cheerleaders with proper training and supervision during all stunts.

– Using mats during practice and as much as possible during competitions.

– Stressing cheerleaders should not attempt a stunt if tired, injured or ill, or if weather is inclement.

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