(WECT) - Believe it or not, the most serious sports injuries among high school and college athletes are happening on the sidelines, according to a newly released study.
Cheerleaders account for more catastrophic injuries than basketball, soccer, and football.
"When we talk about catastrophic injuries, typically we refer to head and neck injuries, that can cause paralysis, brain damage or even death," said Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Stephen Storer.
Dr. Storer said 2/3 of all serious injuries among female high school athletes are caused by cheerleading accidents.
"I just saw a child with a fractured shoulder yesterday who was a flyer and she was 6 years old," said Storer.
"If compare them to any athlete, I would compare cheerleaders to football players," said cheerleader Raquel Duncombe. "We take a pounding everyday and we still bleed blue and gold."
Storer is trying to educate people about the dangers of cheerleading, a sport where the smallest girls, called flyers, are catapulted into the air.
"Those kids are prone to impact injuries," said Storer. "So they can literally fall from 15 to 20 feet up onto a foam pad."
It's hard to believe that the girls on the sidelines are more injury prone than the guys smashing into each other on the field, but remember they're wearing pads and helmets.
Plus, Dr. Storer says some cheerleading coaches often put style over safety.
"Sometimes the coaches aren't appropriately trained to train these children," said Storer.
Cheerleading carries some unavoidable risks and no amount of prevention can stop every injury, but with the proper information and knowledge the severity and frequency of injuries can be greatly reduced.