Cheerleading accounts for more catastrophic injuries than every other girls’ sport combined, LiveScience reports. Of the 103 fatal, debilitating, or serious injuries female high school athletes incurred between 1982 and 2007, 67 occurred while cheerleading. Participants in the next-most-dangerous activity, gymnastics, sustained just nine such injuries. The proportions for college athletes were similar.
The jump is likely due to the increasingly gymnastic nature of the sport, researchers theorize. “If these cheerleading activities are not taught by a competent coach and keep increasing in difficulty, catastrophic injuries will continue,” said the lead researcher. Less serious injuries have risen as well. The number of 5- to 18-year-olds sent to the hospital with cheerleading injuries doubled between 1990 and 2002, from 10,900 to 22,900.