A peppy combination of gymnastics and dancing, cheerleading is an acrobatic and intense sport; in fact, it has one of the highest injury rates in sports. All those high tosses, stunts, and flips can cause a range of knee, ankle, wrist, and head injuries. As with any sport, some bumps and bruises are unavoidable; however, there are a few ways to keep your cheerleader safe and hopefully prevent cheerleading injuries:
- Practice with the right equipment in an appropriate place: the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA) recommends the squad practice on appropriate mats in a location without startling or loud noises. The area around a stunt should be cleared (from overhead lights, people who aren’t spotting, etc.) and if practicing outside, the squad shouldn’t attempt stunts when it’s wet, raining or other inclement weather.
- Make sure the coach is trained and knowledgeable: AACCA releases updated cheerleading rules every year, and it’s important your child’s coach is up-to-date with the latest cheer safety guidelines. For some levels, this means restricting the types of stunts allowed. If you’re concerned about the intensity of stunting or amount of pressure your coach is putting on the team to achieve tumbling passes, you can review the latest rules and bring them to the coach.
- Cheerleaders should be in good physical condition: most cheerleading teams will require each athlete complete a sports physical prior to try outs to show the athlete’s general level of health and fitness (this is not to replace an annual well child checkup). Additionally, during practice, the squad should warm up and cool down. AACCA recommends cheerleaders adopt a strength-building and conditioning program to help maintain fitness.
- Avoid jewelry: jewelry (except medical and religious) is prohibited. If allowed, it should be taped down and out of the way.
- Mind sport regulations: the squad should be familiar with sport-specific regulations (such as where to stand and when to approach the playing field/court).
While following these guidelines can help your cheerleader avoid some injuries, not all are preventable. Always visit a doctor if your child is complaining of any pain, especially after a fall or practice. Many urgent care facilities, like Partners Urgent Care, are open late and on weekends so you can check out any cheer-related minor emergencies. Plus, we have digital X-ray equipment onsite so you can quickly assess the severity of an injury.