Children's Hospital Colorado

We care for patients’ growing muscles, joints and bones through sports medicine, surgery, rehabilitation and research.

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At the Sports Medicine Center at Children’s Hospital Colorado, we work specifically with young athletes. Our sole focus is to help your child or teen play, excel and enjoy the sports they love, including cheerleading.

Why are we experts at caring for young cheerleaders?

Cheerleaders in formation on a football field

At Children’s Hospital Colorado, we recognize that cheerleading has evolved into an activity requiring more athleticism and high-level skills than ever. Gymnastic moves now frequently replace previous cheerleading styles, and the difficulty of stunts has led to an increase in cheerleading-related injuries. That’s why the Sports Medicine Center at Children’s Colorado has a special team of experts who specialize in treatment for young and adolescent cheerleaders.

What is cheerleading’s impact on the body?

In a recent study, cheerleading was ranked 16th among sports with the highest number of injuries. And unlike other sports, cheerleading is a year-round activity, so cheerleaders are practicing and performing longer without as much of an off-season as other sports.

What are common cheerleading injuries?

The most common injuries in cheerleaders include:

  • Strains and sprains account for more than half of all cheerleading injuries. Of these, ankle sprains are the most common, followed by strains or sprains of the neck, lower back, knee and wrist.
  • Back injuries: Stunts like lifting other cheerleaders above the head, tumbling and dismounting while twisting and rotating can all place significant stress on the lower back, which can lead to back pain. A more serious injury that can occur over time is a stress fracture to the vertebra, one of the bones that make up the spinal column. If the stress fracture occurs on both sides of the vertebrae, the bone can become weakened and unable to maintain its position. The vertebrae can then slip out of place, resulting in a condition called spondylolisthesis.
  • Concussions: With the frequency of gymnastics stunts performed, cheerleading has become a competitive high-contact sport. As a result, head injuries like concussion are becoming more common. Learn more about concussion signs and symptoms.

Resources and tips for parents and cheerleading coaches

  • Many injuries in cheerleading can be prevented. Strength training and conditioning can help prevent injuries related to strains and sprains of the ankle, back, knee and wrist.
  • All cheerleaders, coaches and parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms of a concussion. Here’s what you need to know about concussions.
  • National cheerleading organizations like USA Cheer and the National Council for Spirit Safety and Education (NCSSE) have developed rules and regulations to help prevent injuries. It is important that parents and coaches are aware of these rules and regulations to help ensure the safety of cheerleaders.

Learn more about our Sports Medicine Center.

Need Advice for Your Young Athlete?

Check out our sports articles, written by our Sports Medicine experts. You'll find advice and tips for parents, coaches, trainers and young athletes.