Which athletes run the greatest risk of injury? You might think football players, but the answer is on the sideline, not the field. Twisted ankles, sprained wrists and broken limbs are common in many sports, especially cheerleading. New research shows that cheerleading is becoming a greater risk for injury than many other sports. Cheerleaders like Samantha Garrett know how tough the sport can be, and she has the scar to prove it. Last year while cheering for Ashley High School, Garrett fell out of a stunt and broke her arm. “I knew the risk when I was going into it, because I knew that it was really dangerous. But I just decided that it was worth it," said Garrett. This summer the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, which tracks sports safety nationwide, found cheerleading accounted for two-thirds of all catastrophic injuries among female high school and college athletes. Research showed dozens of incidents involving head injuries, permanent disability and even death between 1982 and 2007. While the number of cheerleading injuries may not outrank sports like football, cheering has a much higher number of injuries per capita. Hoggard cheerleading coach, Kelly Newman, said safety is the number one goal, but expectations are higher than ever before. “Probably over the years, the stunting has gotten more difficult, the tumbling has gotten more difficult, and the expectations have gotten higher. In addition to that we are a highly academic as well. So all of the standards have been raised and we are expecting a lot more out of our kids," Newman said. Maggie Dagnese, a West Brunswick cheerleader said, "The stunts have gotten a lot more difficult, the cheers are ten times better. It makes the game better." Traci Atkins has been cheering for six years and said getting hurt is always on her mind. Her mother, Karen Atkins, said the risk for injury pays off with the experience. "It's a lot of fun and she's had some great friends and a great experience that she will remember forever. Even with the bumps and bruises,” said Karen.
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