OBJECTIVE. To describe the epidemiology of cheerleading-related injuries among children in the United States.
DESIGN. A retrospective analysis of data for children 5 to 18 years old from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, 1990–2002.
METHODS. Sample weights provided by the NEISS were used to make national estimates of cheerleading-related injuries. Injury rates were calculated for the most frequently occurring types of injury using cheerleading participation data.
RESULTS. An estimated 208 800 children (95% confidence interval [CI]: 166 620–250 980) 5 to 18 years of age were treated in US hospital emergency departments for cheerleading-related injuries during the 13-year period of 1990–2002. The number of injuries increased by 110% from 10 900 in 1990 to 22 900 in 2002, with an average of 16 100 (95% CI: 12 848–19 352) injuries per year (P < .01). The average age of injured children was 14.4 years (median: 15.0 years); 97% were female; and 85% of injuries occurred to children 12 to 17 years old. The number of injuries per 1000 participants per year was greater for 12- to 17-year-olds (8.1) than for 6- to 11-year-olds (1.2) for all cheerleading-related injuries combined (P < .01; relative risk [RR]: 6.49; 95% CI: 6.40–6.58), as well as for injuries grouped by body part injured and type of injury. The body parts injured were lower extremity (37.2%), upper extremity (26.4%), head/neck (18.8%), trunk (16.8%), and other (0.8%). Injury diagnoses were strains/sprains (52.4%), soft tissue injuries (18.4%), fractures/dislocations (16.4%), lacerations/avulsions (3.8%), concussions/closed head injuries (3.5%), and other (5.5%). Children in the 12- to 18-year age group were more likely to sustain strains or sprains to the lower extremity than 5- to 11-year-olds (P < .01; RR: 1.62; 95% CI: 1.50–1.88). The majority of patients with cheerleading-related injuries was treated and released from the emergency department (98.7%). Patients sustaining fractures or dislocations were more likely to be admitted to the hospital than those sustaining other types of injury (P < .01; RR: 5.30; 95% CI: 3.29–6.43).
CONCLUSIONS. To our knowledge, this study is the first to report numbers, rates, and trends of cheerleading-related injuries to children using a nationally representative sample. Cheerleading is an important source of injury to girls. The number of cheerleading-related injuries more than doubled during the 13-year study period. A set of uniform rules and regulations directed at increasing the safety of cheerleading, that are universally enforced, should be implemented. Mandatory completion of a safety training and certification program should be required of all cheerleading coaches. Establishment of a national database for cheerleading-related injuries would facilitate the development and evaluation of injury-prevention strategies based on epidemiologic evidence.