The Importance of Cheerleading Safety
March is National Cheerleading Safety Month. Unfortunately, the rise in popularity of cheerleading in recent years has led to an increased number of injuries. Karen M. Lew from USA Cheer has some tips for parents with children interested in participating in this competitive and demanding sport.
With over 3 million participants involved in all levels of cheerleading, you can expect there to be a number of injuries just as with any other sport or activity. The emphasis being placed on the injuries should truly be spent educating coach, parents and participants. In recent injury studies conducted by the groups like the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators and the High School RIO (Reporting Information Online) internet-based injury surveillance system, the data clearly shows that the risks associated with cheerleading are in line with other male and female school sports, and in many cases the rate of injury in cheerleading is less.
Cheerleading is an activity that has proven to be beneficial for participants of all ages. The benefits of exercise, activity, strength training, and over physical improvement far outweigh the risk of injury. As long as the child is physically capable of the demands of cheerleading and mentally prepared, the potential for injury should not factor into the decision of participation. Cheerleading is available for all ages and levels of participants. As a parent, selecting the right group is necessary.
When considering any sporting activity, a parent should look at a variety of programs available to them in their respective area. Consideration should be given to the type of child you have and the program you have selected. When selecting a cheerleading program, the parent should research the program and its history.
The information a parent should expect to receive about the program should include some basic criteria. The first and most important point is who will be working with your child. Is the person working with your child certified, and is the program conducted using acceptable practice, performance, and competition guidelines. The second item a parent should ask and educate themselves on is the way in which skills are taught, practiced, and performed. The third item a parent should feel confident that the appropriate sequence and skill progression is being used. Another point to assess would be the focus of the program, there also needs to be a strong understanding of the mission of the program your child will be participating in. Is the focus solely based on competition or is there a balance amongst, athletic training, spirit, leadership, and community service. The final piece of information a parent should receive is about the Emergency Action Plan (EAP). Is there a current EAP in place, and if so, how are the coaches, parents and participants educated on this plan? Every program should have an EAP that is reviewed and updated annually. The EAP should include appropriate training for all coaches and those individuals working with the cheerleaders. At a minimum, all staff should be CPR and First Aid Certified.
A Parent Guide to Cheerleading and Cheerleading Safety can be found on the AACCA website
Karen M. Lew, MEd., ATC, LAT is a certified athletic trainer that has been involved with cheerleading for 23 years. She is a member of the USA Cheer Medical Advisory committee, serves as the Director of Safety for USA Cheer and is involved with a variety of Cheerleading and Dance events.