Cheerleading

01 Overview

Popular in middle and high schools, universities, and sports leagues, cheerleading involves the performance of acrobatic stunts. The sport gained popularity in the 1990s through worldwide exposure of cheerleading competitions on TV and in popular culture. While there is a high risk of injury in cheerleading due to the complex nature of the stunts performed, there is strong evidence that these injuries can be prevented.

(see Section 04 - Prevention)
Athlete silhouette
View Common Injuries by clicking the blue dots on the silhouette

Head injuries, specifically concussions, are common in cheerleading.

Ankle sprains and strains can result from many of the complex stunts performed in cheerleading.

Abrasions, contusions, and hematomas (collection of clotted blood) in the knees are common injuries in cheerleading, most often resulting from a fall.

Cheerleading involves stunts that can result in injuries to the back or spine.

02 Injury Statistics

The most common injuries seen in cheerleading are ankle sprains, spinal injuries, concussions, and lower back pain. Cheerleaders on collegiate teams are more likely to sustain injuries as compared to those on high school teams. Overtraining can be a issue as cheerleaders train between 120 and 335 days per year.

 

Curious about the research on injuries?

It is estimated that...

03 Risk Factors

Factors which increase the risk of injury in cheerleading include previous injury, the type of surface performed upon, practicing in the presence of a coach with limited coaching experience, biomechanics, and growth spurts and weight gain.

  • Previous Injury

    Cheerleaders are twice as likely to suffer an injury if they have a history of injury.

  • Supervision

    A coach with less than one year of coaching experience, or who has not taken coaching training, increases the risk of injury among cheerleaders. Practicing or performing stunts without a spotter can increase the risk of serious injury such as concussion.

  • Growth Spurts and Weight Gain

    Bones are weaker and easier to break during growth spurts, and reduced flexibility may occur. Weight gain, common during adolescence, can also have an impact on flexibility and increase the risk of injury.

  • Performance Surface

    Practicing and competing upon hardwood floors, foam floors, artificial turf, wrestling mats, and grass can increase the risk of injury. Appropriate surfaces are spring floors or landing mats at least 10 cm (4 in) thick.

  • Technique and Form

    Improper technique and not being aware of formations and skills when tumbling, landing, and falling can increase the risk of injury.

04 How can I prevent injury?

Some muscle soreness or joint pain is expected when increasing your level of physical activity. It is important to listen to your body for persistent or worsening pain, and to know when to rest. Learn more about how to prevent injuries in cheerleading.

  • Participant & Parent

    Talk to your coach or organization about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Education

    Learning proper technique, formations, and skills for tumbling, landing, and falling can reduce your risk of injury. Biomechanics of techniques is particularly important in cheerleading.

    Coaches can help reduce the risk of injury by becoming knowledgeable about the safety practices and techniques used in cheerleading. Practicing in the presence of a coach who has at least one year of coaching experience, has taken coaching training, and/or has completed a college degree reduces the risk of injury by 40% to 50%. The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators provides information on coaching cheerleading. Routines may have to be adapted to account for growth spurts, weight gain, and changes in strength and flexibility.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regularly participating in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component. This is referred to as a neuromuscular training warm-up program. Completing this warm-up program has the ability to lower the risk of common injuries.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of injury to the knee and back. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for participants and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Sport-related Physicals
    Cheerleading is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Coach & Teacher

    Talk to your organization or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Education

    Teaching proper technique, formations, and skills for tumbling, landing, and falling can reduce the risk of injury. Biomechanics of techniques is particularly important in cheerleading.

    Coaches can help reduce the risk of injury by becoming knowledgeable about the safety practices and techniques used in cheerleading. Practicing in the presence of a coach who has at least one year of coaching experience, has taken coaching training, and/or has completed a college degree reduces the risk of injury by 40% to 50%. The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators provides information on coaching cheerleading. Routines may have to be adapted to account for growth spurts, weight gain, and changes in strength and flexibility.

    Equipment

    Ensure your cheerleaders are practicing on suitable surfaces such as spring floors or landing mats at least 10 cm (4 in) thick.

    Shoes with proper ankle support can reduce the risk of injury. Jewelry should not be worn during cheerleading.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regularly participating in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component. This is referred to as a neuromuscular training warm-up program. Completing this warm-up program has the ability to lower the chances of common injuries. As a coach you should be aware of this type of exercise program and make it part of your cheerleaders’ training/practice routine.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of injury to the knee and back. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for participants and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Sport-related Physicals
    Cheerleading is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Official & Administrator

    Talk to your coaches, teachers, organization, or school about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Education

    Understanding proper technique, formations, and skills for tumbling, landing, and falling can reduce the risk of injury. Biomechanics of techniques is particularly important in cheerleading.

    Coaches can help reduce the risk of injury by becoming knowledgeable about the safety practices and techniques used in cheerleading. Practicing in the presence of a coach who has at least one year of coaching experience, has taken coaching training, and/or has completed a college degree reduces the risk of injury by 40% to 50%. The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators provides information on coaching cheerleading. Routines may have to be adapted to account for growth spurts, weight gain, and changes in strength and flexibility.

    Equipment

    Ensure your cheerleaders are practicing on suitable surfaces such as spring floors or landing mats at least 10 cm (4 in) thick.

    Shoes with proper ankle support can reduce the risk of injury. Jewelry should not be worn during cheerleading.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regularly participating in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component. This is referred to as a neuromuscular training warm-up program. Completing this warm-up program has the ability to lower the chances of common injuries. As a coach you should be aware of this type of exercise program and make it part of your cheerleaders’ training/practice routine.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of injury to the knee and back. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for participants and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Sport-related Physicals
    Cheerleading is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Health Professional

    The role of health professionals in preventing cheerleading injuries has two main components:

    1. Providing ongoing education to cheerleaders, parents, and coaches on effective injury prevention programs such as balance and resistance training; and
    2. Ensuring that injured participants are completely healed and fit-to-perform before returning to cheerleading to prevent re-injury or chronic injury.

    Equipment

    Encourage practicing on suitable surfaces such as spring floors or landing mats at least 10 cm (4 in) thick.

    Shoes with proper ankle support can reduce the risk of injury. Jewelry should not be worn during cheerleading.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for participants and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regularly participating in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component. This is referred to as a neuromuscular training warm-up program. Completing this warm-up program has the ability to lower the chances of common injuries. Encourage coaches, teachers, and cheerleaders to be aware of this type of exercise program and make it part of their training/practice routines.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into the training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help reduce the risk of injury to the knee and back. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent back injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Sport-related Physicals
    Cheerleading is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information about preparticipation physical evaluation.

    Learn more about Preparticipation Physical Evaluation.