I'd always thought of football as the most hazardous sport in high school, but a new report from the U. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the National Cheer Safety Foundation, has opened my eyes to another risky pastime; cheerleading. In a study of female high school students over the past 25 years, it found that 65.1% of all catastrophic injuries came from cheerleading.
The numbers were similar for college co-eds, at 66.7%. While the number of female athletes taking part in other sports has risen with the passage of Title IX, which mandated matching expenditures for women's athletics, the increased complexity and aerobatics included in modern cheerleading routines has increased the risk of injury.
The overall probability of such catastrophic injury is slight, however. Almost 100,000 high school women cheerlead each year, while over the period of the study, of the 103 serious, disabling or fatal injuries suffered by female school students, only 67 were cheer-related. The likelihood of less serious injury, however, seems pretty high. According to the NCAA, one-fourth of insurance expenditures for treatment of injured college athletes in 2005 went for cheerleader injuries.
While many men also take part in cheerleading, particularly at the college level, their injuries were not expressed in this study.