With all the stunting and tumbling cheerleaders do on a regular basis, injuries are bound to happen. There are ways you can minimize your risk of injury, but some of it is out of your control. Some of the injuries you have to watch out for are severe, like concussions. Numerous studies have shown that cheerleading is second only to football in catastrophic sport injuries. If you have a head injury, it’s important to report it to your coach, parents, or doctor. If you ignore it, you could be dealing with serious consequences later. Head injuries should not be taken lightly. Make sure you give yourself enough time to recover before returning to your regular activities. While cheerleading is the most dangerous sport for girls because of the high rates of serious injuries, most of the injuries you encounter will likely be less serious. Here are a few common ones and how to recover from them: Ankle sprain: Some of us are more prone to ankle sprains than others, and if you have sprained or twisted it once, it’s easier to do it again. You can tape your ankles or get an ankle brace for extra support to prevent ankle injuries. Often, your first instinct is to take your shoe off after you twist your ankle, but keeping the shoe on to compress it will keep it from swelling. So keep your shoe on until someone comes with ice. Then wrap the ice around it with a bandage or athletic tape to keep it compressed and diminish swelling. Keep the ice on for about 20 minutes and put your foot up on a chair, pillow, bag, or whatever you have on hand. Keep icing it off and on for the next few days. Give it a chance to rest, but it’s also important to move your ankle around a bit as soon as you can to keep scar tissue from forming and limiting your movement. It’s uncomfortable, but it will help you make a quick and full recovery! Muscle strain: This is most likely to happen in your legs, and probably from over-exerting your muscle without warming up enough first. A strain is a small tear in your muscle, and you can sometimes feel a bump in your leg where it occurred. They will differ in severity depending on the size of the tear, but usually you can still participate if you wrap your leg or affected area for support. You can use athletic tape, an elastic bandage, or a leg wrap. To help it heal, warm it up with a heat pad or a longer, slow aerobic warm-up before activity. Lightly stretch it before and after practice, and afterward you can massage the area to break up scar tissue. Then ice it, either with an ice bag for about 20 minutes, or freeze water in a small paper cup and do a direct ice massage with it for about five minutes. Bone bruise: A deep bone bruise occurs when you fall hard on the area, most commonly your tailbone. Bone bruises are annoying and painful, but all you can really do is wait it out. They might take a few days or even up to a week to heal, but they will get a little better and easier to put up with every day. Icing might help it heal faster if the area has any swelling, and heat might help relieve pain. These definitely hurt, but as long as you can tolerate the pain it is probably OK to continue training. Talk to your coach though! If the injury doesn’t get progressively better, get it looked at because it might actually be something more serious like a fracture. Sore muscles: While not technically an injury, a new athlete might confuse sore muscles for one, and sore muscles can keep even experienced athletes from being able to practice or perform at their best. Being sore doesn’t mean you’re out of shape. It means you pushed yourself hard and got a good workout! The best way to diminish muscle soreness is to drink lots of water‚ before, during, and after the activity. In fact, just be sure to drink plenty of water all the time. Although you might feel like collapsing on the couch after a tough workout, this will only make you sorer in the morning. Walk or jog it out, and be sure to stretch. But then you can rest! Getting plenty of sleep will give your muscles time to repair themselves and come back stronger from the good workout you put them through. What injuries have you had? What helped you recover and get back to cheering?