Is your child doing cartwheels at the thought of being a cheerleader? It's not just a matter of standing on the sidelines looking good in a uniform. Today, it's often an athletic activity with a risk for injury. Cheerleading now demands harder and harder stunts and activities.
Injuries linked to cheerleading may happen. Cheerleading has grown into a sport that demands great strength, agility, and gymnastic skill.
Many injuries are minor sprains and strains, especially in the legs, ankles, and feet. Some injuries affect the head and neck. Most cheerleading injuries happen during exercises like pyramids, tosses, and gymnastic moves.
The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA) has given safety rules. A safe program has direct adult supervision, proper conditioning, skills training, and warm-up exercises. These are some general guidelines for high school cheerleaders from the AACCA:
A qualified and knowledgeable adviser or coach must be on hand.
Practice sessions should be supervised. They should be held in a safe and fitting place.
Individual and squad ability levels should be recognized. Stunts should be planned and done that are right for those levels.
Participants should have good training in cheerleading gymnastics.
Mandatory professional training in correct spotting methods must be held.
Participants should take part in a complete conditioning and strength-building program.
No jewelry should be worn.
Structured stretching exercise and flexibility and warm-up routines should be held before and after practice sessions, game activities, and pep rallies.
Only the right surfaces should be used for tumbling, partner stunts, pyramids, and jumps.
Cheerleaders' skills should be evaluated based on accepted teaching standards. Correct spotting should be used until all performers show that they have mastered the skills.
Hard and unbending supports or rough edges or surfaces must be correctly covered.
Athletic shoes, not gymnastic slippers, must be worn.
Props, like signs, should be made of solid material with no sharp edges or corners. All signs should be gently tossed or kept under control.