By Danielle Pro-Hudson, Bayhealth Medical Group
Although cheerleaders were once a small, vocal group who encouraged the fans to support the team, cheerleading has become much more competitive, sophisticated, and intense. As in other sports, cheerleading injuries can occur while training, competing, or performing on the sidelines.
In addition to providing athletes with treatment, Taylor Hatfield, Bayhealth’s head athletic trainer at Milford High School, says some cheerleading injuries can also be prevented.
The most common cheerleading injuries include knee and ankle injuries, as well as concussion and neck injuries. Some injuries involving the knee and ankle are associated with weak hips and a weak core. Hatfield says that “cheerleaders need a strong base for stunting.”
Hatfield emphasizes that by developing core and lower extremity strength, learning proper mechanics for tumbling, and correct landing techniques cheerleaders may prevent cheerleading injuries. In addition, Hatfield suggests strengthening exercises that focus on improving joint mechanics of the knee and hip since these are key sites for muscle imbalances in high school-age female athletes. “It’s about being balanced. Strong hips means strengthening both glutes (gluteus muscles) and quads (quadriceps in the front of the thigh) for jumping and landing,” Hatfield said.
The most common cheerleading injuries, knee and ankle sprains, are associated with weak hips. “The hips aren’t strong enough to protect the knees,” she said. While upper body strength is important for injury-free cheering, lower body strength training is also recommended.
Hatfield said that cheerleaders must also be focused and attentive while performing stunts as most head/neck injuries occur as a result of faulty technique and mechanics. “Concussions and neck injuries that result from falling can often be prevented had there been more attentiveness in a drill,” she added.
Hatfield urges athletes to “remember the basics. Within any sport, the fundamentals are important.”
Visit Bayhealth.org/Outpatient-Therapy if you are dealing with cheerleading or other sports-related injuries.
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