Repeated injuries in sports: Cheerleading is no exception

October 29, 2019 — by Anjali Nuggehalli

Sophomore Emily Eckerman noticed a sharp pain flaring up in her left ankle after executing a complex tumbling routine during a cheer practice in the spring of 2018. 

As a part of a high level competitive cheer team, Nor Cal Elite Zeus, Eckherman she tried to push through the pain, not wanting to let her team down. 

Soon after, however, the pain in her ankle had progressed to the point of nearly complete immobilization, and Eckerman knew that it was time to get some professional help. 

“I was really frustrated because I knew that I wasn’t as good as I could have been without my injury,” Emily said. “I felt so defeated to be held back by something that wasn’t even my fault.”

Eckerman's pain was quickly identified as a condition called “tarsal coalition,” where an abnormal connection forms between bones on the foot. Her tarsal coalition became symptomatic due to the constant pressure of landing during tumbling.

In June of 2018, Eckerman headed into surgery to get the extra bones removed from her ankle. While the surgery went  smoothly, Eckerman was told to sit out practice for six months to fully recover. However, after only three months, Eckerman was back at cheer practice. Before long, the pain returned, this time on the other ankle.

Eckerman wishes that  she had taken more time to rest after her surgery so she could have competed at her full ability rather than be in pain for the entire season. 

While Eckerman hopes to cheer for as long as she can through high school, she understands that if the pain worsens, she may not be able to continue this competitive sport. 

“Right now, I’m just trying to focus on doing my best this season,” Eckerman said. “My love for cheer along with the friendships I’ve made makes me keep going despite my injuries, and it’s hard to imagine what I would do without it.”

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