12 News (Phoenix, AZ)
March 7, 2020
They Dazzle crowds with jaw-dropping flips and turns, but cheerleaders are now turning heads for a different reason.
The Netflix documentary “Cheer,” is reigniting talks about injuries, especially when it comes to concussions in the sport.
“Most people don’t understand how physically demanding it is,” said Dr. Javier Cardenas, director of Barrow’s Concussion and Brain Injury Center.
This high-energy, high-impact sport is jam-packed with stunts, tumbling and eye-catching dance routines. That sometimes comes at a price.
A recent American Association of Pediatrics study shows high school cheerleaders have the second-highest rate of concussion in practice, only behind football.
Cheerleader Ella Johnston, says she got a concussion while cheerleading when she was in junior high. Ella says she experienced emotional changes, was tired and didn’t want to do anything. She says it took her a couple of months to feel back to normal. They’re symptoms from an injury Dr. Javier Cardenas says competitive cheerleaders are at a higher risk for.
“What’s critically important is that during this recovery phase that the athlete does not sustain another head injury,” he said.
Dr. Cardenas says there are a lot of safety precautions cheer squads should follow, including being educated about concussions signs, practicing on mats, having medical trainers nearby and more.
“Most of my friends have had injuries like concussions, torn shoulders, we talk about it, relieve stress and forget about it and have fun and move on so we don’t freak out anymore,” Ella said.
Risks Ella knows are real in her sport – taking them seriously to make sure her entire team stays safe both in and out of competition.