Athletic safety is a hot topic "“ especially in cheerleading. All recent research has concluded that cheerleading is second only to football regarding catastrophic sports injuries. Despite all the research, cheerleading is still not a sanctioned sport by the NCAA Title-IX standards, which means that some common safety rules and regulations are not governed for cheerleading. In general there are cheerleading industry safety standards, but each organization or school ultimately has control over the requirements for coaches, spotters and choreographers. It's in the hands of the organization's officials and coaches, and the program's participants and their parents, to keep an eye towards safety and enforce preventative measures.

As you think about joining cheerleading, continuing cheerleading or being a leader for a cheer gym, organization or squad, keep these must-know safety statistics from the Catastrophic Sport Injury Research 28th Annual Report 2011 in mind, and consider visiting the National Cheer Safety Foundation page for help developing your own comprehensive safety plan.

Below are statistics from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research's 28th Annual Report 2011. The full Catastrophic Sport Injury Research 28th Annual Report 2011 is available to download here.

Cheerleading Safety Statistics

Of the 128 direct injuries reported for high school female athletes during the 2010-2011 season, 83 of them were from cheerleading. No other sport (including gymnastics, basketball, track, volleyball and more) had injuries in the double digits reported.

Of the 51 direct injuries reported for college female athletes during the 2010-2011 season, 36 of them were from cheerleading. No other sport (including gymnastics, basketball, track, lacrosse and more) had injuries in the double digits reported.

64.8% of all high school and 70.6% of all college direct catastrophic injuries reported for female athletes were a result of cheerleading in the 2010-2011 season.

Cheerleading at a high school and college level accounts for two-thirds of all catastrophic injuries to female athletes.

From the 1982-1983 season to the 2010-2011 season, the overall percentage of catastrophic injuries to high school and college female athletes rates at 66.5%.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, here is the estimated number of emergency room visits that were caused by cheerleading injuries:

1980 "“ 4,954

1986 "“ 6,911 (39.5% increase)

1994 "“ 16,000 (131.5% increase)

1999 "“ 21,906 (36.9% increase)

2004 "“ 28,414 (29.7% increase)

2006 "“ 25,966 (8.6% decrease)

2007 "“ 28,786 (10.8% increase)

2010 "“ 36,288 (26% increase)

Of those emergency room injuries in 2010, a total of 19.3% were head injuries:

1,579 concussions

361 contusions

2,292 internal injuries

or neck injuries:

79 contusions

60 fractures

1,325 sprains/strains

Of those athletes visiting the emergency room with cheerleading injuries:

291 were hospitalized

71 were treated and transferred to another hospital

49 were held for observation

Florida treated more cheerleaders for injuries than for any other sport in the 2010-2011 season.

Download the full Catastrophic Sport Injury Research 28th Annual Report 2011 now to see more and to access a sample review of the data that the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research has collected over the past 29 years.

About The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research:The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research:collects and disseminates death and permanent disability sports injury data that involve brain and/or spinal cord injuries. The research is funded by a grant from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the American Football Coaches Association, and the National Federation of State High School Associations. This research has been conducted at the of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1965. Each year three annual reports are compiled.

Cheerleading is a great sport and a great activity that comes with many benefits to the athletes. Don't let these statistics scare you away, just use them as motivation to make sure that safety is a priority for your local cheerleaders!

  • Insist on qualified and certified coaches and trainers "“ with no exceptions.

  • Make sure that practice is being held on the correct surface and that the team has updated equipment and supplies.

  • Make conditioning a priority. Cheerleaders should have a routine stretching and strength training schedule to help prevent unnecessary injuries.

  • Treat injuries immediately and don't rush an injured cheerleading back into play. Give concussions and muscle injuries time to heal properly, and don't pressure the athlete to push themselves beyond their limits.