Cheerleading Injuries Becoming More Common

POSTED: Thursday, October 8, 2009 - 10:27am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:58pm

Gone are the days of pom-poms and spirit fingers on the sidelines of sporting events. Cheerleading these days is hard core! 16-year-old Mikeisha Coleman has been rooting her school's teams to victory since her junior high years.

"I love it. I like the action and the tumbling, stunting and a lot of people think that it's not a sport," Mikeisha said, "but we do a lot of workouts just like every other sport and it's just as intense." In fact, the sport of cheerleading could arguably be more intense than many of the other high impact sports. Last year alone, 16,000 cheerleaders were injured seriously in accidents involving dramatic stunts and tumbles.

"Tumbling and jumping - your ankles and your wrists hurt way more than anything else," Mikeisha said. Dr. Tyson Green, a podiatrist at Center for Orthopedics, sees the effects of elite cheerleading can have on a young woman's feet. "With cheerleading," he said, "there are more ballistic activities, so when they're coming down, they can easily sprain their ankle."

Ankle sprains and strains account for more than half of all cheerleading injuries. "We've got the tibia and the fibula and the ankle ligament structures that will come at the end of this bone will sometimes be disrupted with an inversion ankle sprain," Dr. Green said.

When the foot rolls in, some of the ligaments can be stressed on the side - either straining them or tearing them. In more severe cases - fractures can occur. Dr. Green said, "You'll see a fracture across the fibula or across the tibia." Because of cheerleading's move from sideline chanting to sideline stunting - the risk for injuries doesn't look like it will be declining anytime soon. So, Dr. Green says if cheerleaders like Mikeisha want to stay in the sport, they might need a little extra support along the way.

"Any type of ankle support would probably be a good idea," he said, "good trainers that tape up your ankles, just like any other sport would be great, especially for those elite athletes in cheerleading."

If the ankle is swollen, bruised or tender to the touch - Dr. Green says rest and ice can be the solution, but if the problem persists for more than a few days, it should be looked at.