Pediatricians Propose Policy to help Hollaback Girls

It’s official!  Cheerleading – love it or hate it –  isn’t just about short skirts, big smiles and pompom waving.  According to a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), cheerleading is just as athletic and potentially as dangerous as a sport and should be designated as one.

In addition, to making it a sport, the AAP urges coaches, parents and school officials to follow injury-prevention guidelines, develop emergency plans and ensure cheerleading programs have access to the same level of qualified coaches, medical care and injury surveillance as other sports. They also recommend better supervision including on-site athletic trainers, limits on practice time and better qualified coaches.

Not everyone is fully aware of how cheerleading has evolved over the last couple of decades. It used to be just standing on the sidelines and doing cheers and maybe a few jumps,” said Cynthia LaBella MD, a sports medicine specialist at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Injuries have increased as cheerleading has become more popular.  Over the last two decades, the number of cheerleaders injured has climbed dramatically. Hardly surprising given that cheerleaders engage in stunts such as creating human pyramids that reach 15 feet high or more.  Common injuries include severe sprains, broken arms and legs, neck injuries and concussions.

Last year alone, there were almost 37,000 documented emergency room visits for cheerleading injuries among girls aged 6 to 22.  That’s a 400% increase from the 1980.  And while the overall injury rate in high school cheerleading is lower than in other girls sports, such as gymnastics, soccer and field hockey, the rate of catastrophic injuries like skull fractures and spinal paralysis is higher.  In fact, cheerleading accounts for 66% of all catastrophic injuries in high school female athletes.

Data suggest there are more than 3 million cheerleaders nationwide, most of them girls.  While most belong to traditional cheerleading squads that support schools’ athletic teams, many schools have also created competitive cheering teams.
Some schools and state high school sports associations already consider cheerleading a sport and require the kind of safety oversight that the academy is recommending. But many do not, says Jim Lord, executive director of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches & Administrators.

Lord and the AAP agree on a number of safety recommendations including limiting the height of human pyramids in high school cheerleading to just two people and banning routines that include pyramids, tumbling or tosses from being performed on hard surfaces.

Lisa Kluchorosky, a sports medicine specialist who works with the academy and the National Athletic Trainers Association, believes the new policy will not only help to reduce injuries but also help erase misconceptions that cheerleading is not very athletic.

What do you think?

We’d Like to Bounce Something Off You…

In 1945, George Nissen, a competitive gymnast, patented the modern trampoline as a “tumbling device. Initially intended as a training tool for acrobats and gymnasts it was subsequently used for military aviator training.

More recently, at least if my neighborhood backyards are anything to go by, the main use of trampolines, is recreational. Driven perhaps, by parents concerns that their kids are becoming more sedentary, along with a family-friendly price tag, it seems there are few family gardens in suburban Northern America that don’t have a trampoline

All this despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics and other lofty medical organizations such as the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine have issued guidelines discouraging the use of trampolines in homes and playgrounds..

In fact, with each new set of guidelines comes an increase in the numbers of trampolines in the home setting.

And an increase in injuries…

In 2009, the rate of trampoline-associated injuries was 160 per 100,000 among 5-14 year olds. And approximately 75% of these injuries occurred when more than one person was on the trampoline at the same time.

The most common site of trampoline injury, is the lower leg accounting for 34% – 50% of injuries and >60% involved the ankle,  Upper extremities are injured in 24% – 36% of cases. Most commonly, when people fall off the trampoline. Of these, approximately 60% are fractures.

Head and Neck Injuries account for 10% to 17% of all trampoline-related injuries and 0.5% of these, result in permanent neurologic damage.

And before, you succumb to your precious little angel’s demands, or are tempted by fall yard sale trampoline bargains you may also want to consider the following:

  • The potential for severe and devastating injury is high.
  • Enclosures and padding may provide a false sense of security and do not prevent the large numbers of injuries that occur on the trampoline mat itself.
  • Many injuries occur even with reported adult supervision.
  • Multiple jumpers increase injury risk, particularly to the smallest participants; so trampoline use should be restricted to a single jumper at any given time
  • Individuals 5 years and younger appear to be at increased risk of fractures and dislocations from trampoline-related injuries.
  • Somersaulting, flipping, and falls put jumpers at increased risk of head and cervical spine injury with potentially permanent and devastating consequences. These maneuvers should not be performed in the recreational setting.
  • Active supervision by adults familiar with the above recommendations should occur at all times. Mere presence of an adult is not sufficient.

Have you got a trampoline story to tell? SRxA’s Word on Health is looking forward to hearing from you.