Fitness professionals working with cheerleaders should be aware of some alarming statistics. According to the 26th annual Catastrophic Sports Injury Research report from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (www.unc.edu/depts/nccsi), cheerleading is the cause of more catastrophic and fatal injuries than any other female sport. The report stated that—between 1982 and 2008—112 high-school girls experienced catastrophic sports injuries. Of those, 73 were related to cheerleading. Other injuries resulted from gymnastics (9), track (8) and swimming (5). Of the 56 female fatalities indirectly related to sports, cheerleading accounted for 8, behind only basketball (15). Among female college students, sports resulted in 44 catastrophic injuries; cheerleading led with 31, followed by field hockey (3) and lacrosse (2). No fatalities were connected to cheerleading in college-age women.

While the number of serious injuries to cheerleaders fell modestly in the 2007–2008 academic year, in response to new safety efforts, the trend over the 26 years has been a dramatic increase. The researchers theorize that a stronger emphasis on tricks and stunts may be to blame. “A major factor in this increase has been the change in cheerleading activity, which now involves gymnastic-type stunts,” according to the report. “If these cheerleading activities are not taught by a competent coach and keep increasing in difficulty, catastrophic injuries will continue to be a part of cheerleading.&rdquo