Danger Zone Sports

Title LGT an article on the hidden injuries in cheerleading. Bonus points for the author, as the main character overcame years of physical therapy to become a physical therapist.

My mom used to work in vocational rehab and would always cross off cheerleading and football on my high school physical forms so that I couldn't participate in those. Same reason that ATV riding and some other typical fun teenager things were verboten. High risk of SCI and/or TBI. Since I had followed other paths, these forbidden activities weren't high on my interest checklist anyway. But, I did enjoy diving, and loved to do so at every opportunity. I did a lot of flips and acrobatics, at least as acrobatic as someone with no gymnastics training or natural grace. I had an incident where I hit the bottom of a hotel pool hard with both feet and jarred my whole back... thought I was going to have a serious problem but walked away from it. I dove into a friend's pool that was 2 feet shallower than I expected and scraped everything but my head on the bottom.

But even though my mom had always discouraged dangerous activity, and afterwards I always resolved to be more careful diving, the danger never sunk in until I became a lifeguard. That's when I got all the information about exactly every way you could hurt yourself in a pool, and how badly. Simultaneously, I learned that those who are being paid to protect your safety may or may not act appropriately to maximize your recovery. One little shake while putting you on the backboard, not stabilizing the head properly when retrieving someone from the bottom of the pool... there's a million opportunities to screw up. It ruined diving for me, and also ruined being a bystander. I hate to be at a public pool or riverside that's out of control... I don't want to feel responsible to help when the inevitable (to my jaded eyes) accident occurs.

I don't know how to best decrease injuries in kids who play sports, but I do think that you need a combination of parental interference and personal education. Parents can insist on safety measures for the child or team, and can ingrain good habits in kids (like seat belts and helmets). Until the child recognizes that yes, they can get hurt and need to be careful, there has to be a parent or responsible adult to step in and insist on safety.

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