The Oakland Raider's cheerleaders
The Oakland Raider's cheerleaders wear santa hats before a game against the Indianapolis Colts in Oakland, California, December 16, 2007. Reuters

Cheerleading accounted for 65.2 percent catastrophic injuries in youth sports, according to a 2011 report of National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina. However, scientists from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus insist that cheerleading is one of the safest sports high school students can take part in.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that only 752 female cheerleader injuries occurred in the total 1,090,705 athletic exposures. Male cheerleaders had significantly higher injury rates at 25 per 18,784 athletic exposures. Overall, cheerleading injury rate was significantly lower than other sports, ranking 18th out of 22 sports. Injury rates are more than four times higher in football and three times more common in girls' soccer.

The most common injuries were concussions, ligament sprains, muscle strains and fractures. Surgery was required for only 4 percent of the injuries, mostly for fractures and sprains.

"Although injury rates are low, when injuries do occur in cheerleading they tend to be more severe than when injuries occur in other sports,” lead author Dustin Currie told Fox News. "That may be because cheerleaders, due to the nature of the sport, are more likely to have falls from elevation - for example, flyers during stunts - or to land awkwardly or be struck by another athlete landing awkwardly - for example, bases during stunts."

The researchers note that injuries from cheerleading have increased and are often serious. The state should ensure that cheerleaders benefit from the safety measures and risk minimisation efforts given to other high school athletes, according to Currie.

"As athletes, cheerleaders should have access to the same safety standards as any other sport," said Currie. "That means, for example, having a qualified coach present at every practice, a designated space in which to practice, and appropriate safety measures like mats and spotters when learning new skills."

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