ROCKLEDGE, Fla. – There's no wonder why football is the most dangerous high school sport: Players hit each other with maximum force on every play. Concussions and knee and ankle injuries are common place.
That's why a lot of parents are steering their kids away from the game.
But few moms and dads are discouraging their kids from playing the second most dangerous high school sport. Why? Because the risk is not so obvious.
Every day at 3 o'clock, coach Ian Stites' trainers' room at Rockledge High School in Brevard County is packed with players.
"There's probably 10 to 15 athletes in here at time," he said.
Predictably, there are football players getting their fingers or ankles taped, but most days, there are as many girls in the trainers room for treatment as there are boys.
Because of the alarming number of concussions and knee injuries, girls soccer is a close second to football on the list of most dangerous high school sports, according to the annual study done by the Colorado School of Public Health.
Rockledge junior soccer player, Cierra Cadore, is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. She never expected to be seriously hurt. "No, I thought I was good until that day."
That day last October when her leg got caught in another players, causing her knee to give way. "At first, I didn't believe my doctor until they brought me in for surgery," Cadore remembers.
Cadore and her parents are like most families: It's hard to see the danger in running and kicking a ball around. According to the Centers for Disease and Control, a girl's ACL is significantly smaller than a boy's ACL. As result, girls are eight times more likely to suffer an ACL injury. Most require reconstructive surgery.
"Just the nature of it; a lot of cutting and moving," Stites said, "It's a non-contact type injury."
While girls soccer is not obviously a dangerous sport, competitive cheerleading is clearly risky.
Cadore's best friend, Hailey Lewis, loves taking the mat.
"It's such an adrenaline rush," Lewis said.
But along with that rush, comes a rash of injuries. Lewis, also a junior Rockledge High School, has broken her wrist, her ankle three times and now, like her friend, is rehabbing after tearing her ACL.
"Think about the type of force of a girl being thrown 20-30 feet in the air and being caught by two other girls," Stites said. "They're doing gymnastic based maneuvers and then landing incorrectly."
That's exactly what happened when Lewis injured her knee. "I was tumbling and I landed wrong."
Lewis and Cadore hurt their knees 16 days apart, 10 months ago. Both faced surgery and a long, difficult recovery. The good news? They had each other to rely on through the tough times.
"It was good. I felt like I had a lot of support from her," said Lewis.
"I vented to her about a lot of things,"said Cadore. "I didn't know how I'd get through it."
Cadore has been cleared to return to the Rockledge High School girls soccer team, but Lewis is still weeks away from cheering again.
Stites looks around his training room and said, "The nature of the game's changed. We're bigger, faster, stronger, even at the high school level."
That's why he encourages all athletes who come to him to form good habits at a young age. Stretching is critical.
Many doctors and trainers recommend the FIFA 11+ program. Click here for a link to the program.
When asked if there was a sport in which he could guarantee no one would get hurt, Stites said, "Chess."