One of the most hazardous youth sports is played without pads, a helmet, a stick or a glove. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, it's cheerleading.
Cheerleading injuries are rising sharply, doubling since 1990. In 2007, there were 74,000 injuries from participating in the sport. Sprains and strains accounted for more than half of those. More than 16 percent of injuries were fractures or dislocations. Nearly four percent involved concussions and other closed head injuries. (This from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission).
Think about what cheerleaders do, seemingly with more daring each year, and it's not surprising that tens of thousands are injured. The scariest might be the "basket toss" in which a cheerleader is thrown into the air, often up to 20 feet, by three or four other cheerleaders. Ideally, the flying cheerleader is caught on the way down.
Daniel Green, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in New York, says on the AAOS website that cheerleading injuries can be cut down or prevented by improving "spotter training, mandating the use of floor mats for complex stunts, and encouraging safety education and proper training for coaches.”
And perhaps an altitude limit on the basket toss.