Cheerleading Safety Data and Research

In the last 5 years, data from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research shows that cheerleading has experienced a major reduction in injuries. This is in large part due to additional rules and restrictions, as well as improved coaches training.

In 2017-2018 there were zero reported catastrophic injuries in cheerleading, and two reported in the past 5 years. In fact, the number of catastrophic injuries from cheerleading over the past 5 years are similar to other girls’ high school sports, including track and field, softball, and gymnastics, and are lower than those for football, baseball, wrestling, and girls’ soccer. (Note: 2018-19 data from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research is not yet available.) (See charts 1, 2 & 3.)

The 2018-19 High School RIO Study shows that cheerleading ranks as the lowest 17th out of 20 high school sports studied. (See charts 4 & 5.)

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, in 2018 there were fewer emergency room visits for girls ages 14-18 for cheerleading (23,351) than girls’ basketball (55,069), soccer (40,396), softball (31,095), and volleyball (29,774). (See chart 6.)

Research is available that makes it clear that cheerleading is a safe activity for athletes of all ages. If you need additional information, please visit the Experts page to discuss safety with a CheerSafe expert.

Chart 1: Female Cheerleading Direct Catastrophic Injuries, 2001-02 to 2017-18
(Note: 2018-19 data from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research is not yet available.)

Chart 2: Female High School and College Direct Catastrophic Injuries, 2013-14 to 2017-18
(Note: 2018-19 data from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research is not yet available.)

Chart 3: All Sports Direct Catastrophic Injuries, 2013-14 to 2017-18
(Note: 2018-19 data from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research is not yet available.)

Chart 4: 2018-19 High School Sports Injury Rates per 1,000 Athletic Exposures

Chart 5: 2018-19 High School Concussion Rates per 1,000 Athletic Exposures

Chart 6: 2018 Emergency Room Visits, Females Age 12 – 18
(Note: 2019 data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission is not yet available.)

  • National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study
    R. Dawn Comstock, PhD, Christy L. Collins, MA, Natalie M. McIlvain, BS
    This annual study of 20 High School sports, conducted for the National Federation of High Schools, includes reporting by Athletic Trainers at the high school level assigned to each sport. Injuries which result in a loss of at least one day of playing time are reported along with number of daily exposures to injury. Results demonstrate that cheerleading has a significantly lower risk of injury, 17th out of 20, than most other sports in the survey.
  • National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (ER Visits)
    This report estimates total injuries based on a sample of approximately 100 emergency rooms across the U.S. based on data given when someone is admitted to the ER.  This is a prevalence report that shows cheerleading has a lower total number of ER visits (23,3511) than girls’ basketball (55,069), soccer (40,396), softball (31,095), and volleyball (29.774) for females, age range of 14 – 18.
  • National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research
    Frederick Mueller, PhD and Robert Cantu, MD
    This report on college and high school sports catastrophic injuries is often cited regarding the prevalence (total number) of injuries dating back to 1982. What is not often reported is that the incidence (rate per 100,000 athletes) for cheerleading is lower than many other male and female sports, including girls’ ice hockey, girls’ gymnastics and girls’ soccer. The report also shows a significant decline in serious injuries in cheerleading since 2005-06.
  • Trends in Concussion Incidence in High School Sports: A Prospective 11-Year Study
    Andrew E. Lincoln, ScD; Shane V. Caswell, PhD, ATC; Jon L. Almquist, VATL, ATC; Reginald E. Dunn, BA; Joseph B. Norris, MD and Richard Y. Hinton, MD, MPH, PT
    This 10-year study of 12 sports in 25 Virginia high schools reported that cheerleading is tied with baseball as the sports with the lowest concussion rates (.06 per AE), as compared with the three highest sports, boys’ football (.60), girls’ soccer (.35) and boys’ lacrosse (.30)
  • Incidence and Risk Factors for Concussion in High School Athletes, North Carolina, 1996–1999
    Mark R. Schulz, Stephen W. Marshall, Frederick O. Mueller,Jingzhen Yang, Nancy L. Weaver, William D. Kalsbeek and Michael Bowling
    This study evaluated 15,802 high school athletes over a 3-year period with reporting by the Athletic Trainer. This study demonstrates that the rate of concussion in cheerleading is significantly less than other high school sports. In this study, cheerleading tied with wrestling as the two sports with the lowest concussion rates.