5 safety tips for the cheerleader in your life
According to University of North Carolina’s National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, more than 65 percent of all severe injuries in youth sports occur in cheerleading.
While the most common cheerleading injuries are not life threatening, nearly 27,000 of those injuries resulted in emergency department visits in 2007, according to the most recent statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This is a 400 percent increase in visits since 1980.
Experts say there is a risk of injury for all sports; however, preventative steps by parents, coaches and cheerleaders can be taken to keep safe.
- Find soft ground: One of the first things a coach can do is to find a safe surface for cheerleaders to practice and perform on. It is best not to perform on wood, tile, grass or other hard surfaces. “The surface an athlete is landing on is important,” she says. “A life threatening injury may be sustained if a fall is any more than three and a half feet on grass but would be rare on a foam or spring floor unless it is more than 11 feet.”
- Be strong: Cheerleaders should also engage in strength and conditioning activities, Dr. Sheehan says. Strength training provides core muscles that offer a stable strong base so that the cheerleader can build more difficult routines and tricks.
- Get trained: Dr. Sheehan also recommends that coaches receive the appropriate certification and training. This training should provide them with the ability to provide proper spotting for gymnastics and partner stunts, know important safety measures and perform basic injury management.
- Safety first: When learning new skills, it is especially important to take safety precautions, she says. This begins with a coach supervising the cheerleaders at all times. Coaches should also teach appropriate spotting techniques so that the cheerleaders are able to safely assist their teammates in learning new tricks.
“When attempting a new trick, it is important to be able to trust your spotter. He or she should be capable of performing the trick so they can anticipate where you might need help,” she explains. “Trust your instincts if you don’t feel ready or comfortable with the trick. Break it down and take it slow.”
Dr. Sheehan says that these simple steps can make a big difference for cheerleaders on the sidelines. Injuries can be avoided and cheerleaders can be safe and continue to have fun routing for their favorite teams.
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