Rigors of cheerleading lead to many injuries: Staying in the Game

The next time you attend a professional or amateur sporting event please take a moment to admire the athleticism of the cheerleaders.

Recently in federal court a judge ruled that cheerleading is not a sport. Therefore a school could not use cheerleading to comply with Title IX. This federal law mandates equal opportunities for men and women in athletics.

Try telling a cheerleader that what they do is not a sport. They have coaches, go to practice and train hard to be able to do the routines. They even have competitions between other teams.

It has been reported cheerleading is more dangerous than any other sport for women. These injuries are not just sprained ankles. They can be disabling type injuries such as fractures and concussions.

College cheerleading for women leads all sports in serious injuries. Twenty-five percent of money spent by the NCAA insurance program for student-athlete injuries is for cheerleading.

One of my patients asked me to see his son who is a cheerleader for a large Division I college out of state. He was going to be home on school break.

His primary issues were lower-back pain and mid-back pain. At times he was having a difficult time taking in a deep breath. He would get headaches and also had groin pain.

He told me how intense his cheerleading schedule can be. His season starts with football and goes through basketball season. They now cheer for both men’s and women’s basketball games. Plus, he carries a full academic schedule. He has little down time.

In the offseason he is in the gym training. Since he started cheering as a freshman four years ago he has put on almost 20 pounds of chiseled muscle.

Cheering is serious and if the athletes do not stay fit they are cut from the team. The sport is too dangerous to have an undisciplined team member.

Fortunately most of his issues are structural in nature. He has a short leg on one side that causes his pelvis to tilt. This results in muscle imbalance in his mid-back and hips. This will lead to his groin issues. Misalignment of his ribs is making it difficult for him to take in a deep breath.

His headaches are of the muscle tension type and not migraine. He is most uncomfortable in the morning getting out of bed and at the end of the day.

I recommended spinal adjustments to realign his pelvis, ribs and neck. I chose not to use a lift in his shoe at this time. If his back pain did not become stable then a heel lift would be an option.

I stressed the need to stretch and to add some yoga to his training routine. I also asked him to use a foam roller which will smooth out and massage his muscles after a game or hard workout.

His teammate had similar complaints. I found the vertebrae to be very tender between his shoulder blades. I asked him about his digestion. He told me he was diagnosed with acid reflux and was on medication.

I told him how concerned I was that at age 20 he could not digest his food properly. He did not want to be on medication for the next 60-plus years of his life.

In my practice I have found that spinal misalignments between the shoulders can aggravate the patient’s ability to digest food properly. I asked him to follow up with the college’s chiropractor back to school.

Dr. Robert Lynch is a former president of the Maine Chiropractic Association and head of the Lynch Chiropractic Center in South Portland. “Staying in the Game” appears every other Thursday in the Press Herald.