Healing Those Cheerleading Bruises

The 26th annual report from the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill listed cheerleading as “the most dangerous sport.” Fortunately, serious cheerleading injuries are decreasing, but any sport can lead to bumps and bruises.

There are natural remedies for cheerleaders’ small injuries which can keep them from interfering with the enjoyment of the sport.

First, we need to understand how bruises form. When you hit a body part, perhaps by falling during a cheer routine, small blood vessels break and leak blood underneath the skin. The blood pools and shows through the skin. This is the source of the discoloration that shows as a bruise.

This can be painful. Even if the bruise doesn’t hurt much, cheerleading is a performance art as well as a sport, so we want to get rid of the discoloration as fast as possible.

As the body heals itself, the blood cells that have gathered under the skin break down and wash away. You can see the process as the bruise changes color and disappears. It can take days or even weeks for a bruise to heal completely, and there are a number of factors that affect the length of time involved.

There are some immediate actions you can take to speed the healing process:

  • A cold compress can slow down the blood flow to the area and keep the bruise from getting larger.
  • Raising the bruised body part above the head lets gravity keep the blood from flowing into the area.

There are also some natural remedies that can help speed healing:

  • Bromelain, a natural fruit enzyme found in papayas, has been shown in medical studies to speed the healing of bruises. Since bromelain is found mostly in the stems and leaves of the plant, taking the enzyme in medical form is more effective than simply eating more pineapple.
  • Papain is another fruit enzyme, found in papaya. Papain has been shown in clinical trials to be effective in treatment of edema and inflammation, and to speed the healing of wounds.
  • Arnica is an herb, used extensively to speed healing. While it shouldn’t be taken internally, topical application of creams or balms containing arnica has a vasodilating effect. This means that it enlarges the small blood vessels beneath the skin, making it easier to carry away the blood and fluids that build up in a bruise.

Bruises can be painful and unsightly, and for athletes they may not be preventable, but fortunately they are treatable.