Football players are not the only ones during this busy fall sports season to get concussions. The cheerleaders boosting the team up right alongside them are equally as susceptible.
One third of all cheer injuries are concussions, in addition to the many serious orthopedic ones that cheerleaders often suffer.
How do cheerleaders get concussions?
Today, as with so many youth sports, cheerleading is more intense and competitive than ever before and these girls are doing more than they did a decade or so ago. Their moves and stunts are more complicated and risky, resulting in far more injuries.
Concussions in cheer can occur when a cheerleader, typically the ‘flyer’ up on top, falls and hits the ground. But the girls who serve as the ‘base’ down below can also suffer a concussion if the top girl falls into them and they knock heads. Additionally, the tumbling passes that cheerleaders often perform can lead to nasty falls and head injuries as well.
“Also, you don’t have to hit something with your head to have a concussion,” says Dr. Labiner. “A head moving back and forth quickly can cause a concussion too, like whiplash.”
How can cheerleaders prevent concussions?
Dr. Labiner and other experts encourage cheerleaders to get a baseline concussion screening, or ImPACT testing, before their season, just as many football players do. This can help gauge what is normal for them in terms of neurological function in the event of a head injury.
Additional tips for avoiding a concussion are:
- Eat a well-balanced diet to prevent lack of energy or becoming light-headed while doing a stunt
- Warm up before each and every cheer session so your body is loose and prepared
- Ensure there are properly trained spotters and coaches at every practice and game who are capable of recognizing the signs of a concussion
In the event that your child or teenager does suffer from a concussion, Dr. Labiner recommends strictly adhering to your physician’s protocol for rest and recovery.
Kids should also not return to play, or cheer, until they are cleared physically and mentally ready.
As Dr. Labiner likes to say, “I remind them you only get one brain, it’s the one thing in your body I cannot replace for you.”
That said, doctors are quick to add though they do not discourage girls from participating in cheerleading as it is a great team sport and offers both an athletic and artistic outlet–just be vigilant about preventing them to the best extent possible and quickly recognizing the signs of a concussion so you can get proper care and treatment if needed.