College Sports Injuries: Who’s Most At Risk?
Some college sports get a lot of attention; even the most passive sports followers are aware of how their favorite college teams are doing in football and basketball. Local news follows those teams obsessively, and certain women’s sports have gathered more and more attention over the past decade. Women’s basketball and women’s soccer have garnered an immense following, and girls now declare that they want to grow up to be Mia Hamm or Tamika Catchings. But in terms of injuries, none of these headline-grabbing sports, men’s or women’s, can touch the sport that is responsible for almost 70% of the injuries to collegiate women athletes.
Now, I have known people, mostly middle school males, who would immediately declare, “Cheerleading isn’t a sport.” Trust me, it’s a sport. Cheerleaders work harder than any other kind of athlete on their respective fields. Here in the Midwest, where August temperatures hover between 95 and 105, the football players are sent home from practice at noon so they don’t get heatstroke, while cheerleaders work all day, every day, getting their squad in shape. Cheerleaders don’t get safety equipment or specially prepared playing fields—if they fall, there’s nothing between them and the concrete or the gym floor.
Some of these injuries to college cheerleaders can be prevented if schools treated cheerleaders with half the respect they lavish on other athletes. Most sources concerned with cheer safety outline the following measures for reducing cheer injuries.
- Have a squad doctor…or resident EMT, nurse, or other medical professional who can evaluate injuries immediately. College football teams have team doctors who do exactly that. Many injuries are worsened when athletes are encouraged to continue playing or practicing without being medically okayed
- Emergency and injury procedures should be in place. If a medical person isn’t there to make the call, the coach and team should know exactly how to handle an injury.
- Cheerleaders should be certified for advanced stunts. Different levels of certification would ensure that cheerleaders got thorough safety training at every new level of stunts.
- Falls, jumps, or stunts off of the tops of pyramids should be prohibited. A lot of those injuries come from being thrown in the air, or jumping from the top of a pyramid, and then hitting the floor.
All athletes have to deal with injuries, and they know that’s just part of playing the game. But there comes a point when enough is enough. If colleges and universities give cheerleaders the support they need to stay safe, maybe they won’t reach that point.