Cheerleader Concussion

From the Doctor’s Blog Jan 19, 2016


Our September article about the NFL grant to American Academy of Family Physicians emphasized the importance of early detection and treatment of concussion in the student athlete. In December, The Journal of Pediatrics reported the risk of head injuries to cheerleaders.  Concussion tops the list of injuries sustained by high school cheerleaders as “the once-tame sideline activity becomes more daring and competitive.”

Read Shelby’s Story, about the high rates of head injury that led to a change in national high school cheerleading rules.


It is estimated that as many as 1.6 to 3.8 million concussions occur in the US per year in competitive sports and recreational activities. The actual numbers may be much higher – as many as 50% of concussions go unreported. Concussions occur in all sports with the highest incidence in contact sports: football, hockey, rugby, soccer, and basketball.

The immediate symptoms after a concussion can be: memory loss, disorientation, and poor balance. Playing through concussion makes people more vulnerable to getting hit again. There are now protocols in place in both professional and school sports to be sure that players are removed after the first “hit”.

Second-impact syndrome is when an athlete suffers a second head injury before the brain has adequate time to heal in between concussions and puts the player at greater risk for brain injury.

Both immediate and delayed symptoms can continue for long periods of time and have a negative impact on recovery. According to research, 20-25% of individuals who have sustained a concussion experienced chronic, delayed symptoms: headaches, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, loss of concentration and memory, and noise and light sensitivity.

In some cases, people experience behavior or emotional changes after a mild traumatic brain injury. Family members may notice that the person has become more irritable, suspicious, argumentative or stubborn.

Athletes who had at least one concussion playing college-level sports had greater declines in attention and memory and a slowing of some movements more than 30 years later compared with those who never had a concussion.

Other Resources

CheerSafe
USA Cheer
American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Heads Up”


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This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical or safety advice. Please consult your health care professional for evaluation of your individual case.