In a discussion about sports injuries, generally football is the first thing that comes to mind. Head injuries and concussions are often talked about, from high school all the way to pro football. However, another group of athletes also suffers catastrophic injuries—competitive cheerleaders.
They jump, fly, and twist through the air with what appears to be the greatest of ease, but the stunts our cheerleaders perform at football or basketball games can be incredibly dangerous. In high school alone, cheerleading was responsible for 66% of all catastrophic injuries to female high school athletes over a 25-year period. More, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported nearly 5,000 emergency room visits for cheerleaders in 1980. By 2007, this number had risen to over 26,000.
This rise can partly be attributed to an increased participation in cheerleading, but also the evolution of cheerleading to a competitive sport in its own right. More advanced and risky stunts and routines have made cheerleading more dangerous.
Cheerleaders also find themselves at a higher risk for neck and spinal injury, especially when routines include acrobatics and tossing each other into the air on hard surfaces or sports court. All it takes is a misstep or bad timing and a serious neck or head injury could occur.
Symptoms of spinal cord injury, depending on how far up on the spinal cord the injury occurs, can include:
- Loss of movement
- Loss of sensation, including the ability to feel heat, cold and touch
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Exaggerated reflexes or spasms
- Pain or an intense sensation caused by damage to the nerve fibers in the spinal cord
- Difficulty breathing, coughing or clearing secretions from the lungs
Preventing cheerleading spinal cord injuries
Safety experts, including the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA), suggest the following action plan to avoid neck and head injuries.
- Cheerleaders should undergo a physical evaluation before participating.
- Cheerleaders should be trained by a qualified coach, with experience in gymnastics, spotting, and general safety.
- Cheerleaders should be trained in proper safety techniques and should build upon each technique before going on to advanced skills.
- All practices should be supervised.
- As you cannot have medical personnel at every practice, there should be emergency protocol set in writing and available to all staff and athletes.
- When any athlete has shown signs of injury, “return to play” guidelines should be set and followed with medical authorities.
- Coaches should be certified by appropriate associations, whether it’s high school or college.
- Finally, especially at the high school level or lower, parents need to play a proactive role in their child’s safety. If there are safety concerns, they should be brought to the attention of the coach immediately.
At Gainsberg Law, our compassionate Chicago spinal cord injury attorneys understand how traumatic these types of injuries can be. You have concerns about paying medical bills and getting through the day-to-day. We want to help you get the compensation you’re entitled to. We invite you to schedule a meeting with our legal team through our contact form, or by calling 312.548.9019 today.