Cheerleading and concussion risks
Once considered a sideline activity, cheerleading is evolving into a more athletic and competitive sport for many schools.
Experts say concussions now top the list of injuries sustained by high school cheerleaders.
Dr. Andrew Russman of Cleveland Clinic says that like any sport, cheerleading has risk for injury and it's important for participants to be aware of that risk.
"Being aware that stunting itself carries this risk, especially for the flyer, the young person that's being tossed high into the air, and the subsequent being caught by somebody else and landing either on the ground or colliding with another person that's supposed to catch them," explains Dr. Russman.
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, jolt, or blow to the head that causes the brain to bounce around or twist inside the skull.
Doctor Russman says the highest concussion risk in cheerleading is usually for the "flyer," but cheerleaders can also be injured during pyramids and tumbling exercises.
He says that when experts categorize concussion risk in sports, they tend to separate them between contact sports or non-contact sports.
Dr. Russman also says it's important to recognize that even non-contact sports carry some risk and that risk will vary depending on the type of activity that a person is doing.
For instance, swimmers, in general are considered to be at a very low-risk for concussion, however those who are also divers are at a much higher risk.
This is why Dr. Russman says it's so important to pay attention to the nature of the activity that is taking place, not just how a sport is classified on paper.
Whether cheerleading is classified as a sport or an extra-curricular activity varies from state to state.
Dr. Russman says that it's important for organizations who incorporate stunting and tumbling into cheering to have the same medical resources available and follow the same concussion protocols as other sports.
"If they're not currently involved, I would encourage schools or communities to make sure that they're getting those medical resources available because those risks of injuries are higher with cheerleading with stunting than other sports and or cheerleading without stunting," says Dr. Russman.
Dr. Russman says that any person who suffers a concussion needs to be evaluated by an appropriate concussion provider and allowed proper recovery time before resuming activity.