When you hear the word “cheerleading,” chances are it conjures a mental image of perky girls in ponytails who will stop at nothing to bring the school/team spirit. But did you know that for professional cheerleaders, “stopping at nothing” can mean risking serious, long-lasting injuries?

According to a recent report, the most dangerous sport for women in the United States is not soccer, not American football, but the good old fashioned girl sport of cheerleading, which is responsible for more serious injuries than any other sport by a significant margin:

According to the new research, 66 per cent of “catastrophic” sporting injuries (resulting in permanent disability or medical conditions) amongst women in the US are caused by cheerleading or ‘competitive cheer.’

At university level the figure is even higher with more than 70 per cent of serious injuries being suffered by cheerleaders.

Interestingly enough, most of these injuries are suffered by the cheerleaders who catch other cheerleaders, rather than the ones who fly through the air, so I guess the flying ones don’t get dropped as much as I always imagined. Maybe that’s because the catchers will go to great lengths and risk knee injuries, etc. to keep a teammate from falling on her head.

The oddest part of the report, though, is that cheerleading is only “recognized as a sport” in 29 US states, prompting one to wonder what it is considered in the other 21. High-impact enthusiasm? A non-sport type of acrobatics? Extreme smiling? Do not strain your happiness muscles, girls!

Numerous doctors cited by Yahoo! News want cheerleading to be taken more seriously as a sport so that they can better treat and prevent injuries via “regulation and qualified coaches,” which seems reasonable enough to me. In the meantime, I suggest injury averse cheerleaders take up something safer, like cliff diving or American gladiating.

(Via Jezebel)

Photo: Wikipedia