Cheerleading Safety Tips
For National Cheerleading Safety Month, Speak Now for Kids asked Capri Reece, an alumnus of Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day and a former cheerleader to write a post on tips to prevent injury while cheering. Diagnosed with sickle cell anemia at nearly two weeks old, Capri represented Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, N.C. at 2016 Family Advocacy Day.
Capri cheered in her hometown of Concord, N.C. at Northwest Cabarrus Middle School from 2011 to 2012 and at Northwest Cabarrus High School on the junior varsity squad from 2013 to 2015 and on the varsity squad from 2015 to 2017. Capri is in her freshman year studying pre-nursing at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in Greensboro, N.C.
I cheered from 8th grade all the way through my senior year of high school. It was one of the best experiences of my life. No matter in which level of cheerleading you participate -- whether it is varsity, junior varsity or even competition cheer, it is important to stay safe and protect yourself from injury.
Check out my safety tips to help benefit my fellow cheerleaders, so they can have a great cheer season!
It is important that you take a good amount of time to fully stretch and warm up your body for the vigorous routine you are about to execute. If you do not stretch before performing, you put yourself at risk of tearing or pulling a muscle or ligament. It is also important to warm up all parts of your body, not just legs. You must stretch your arms and back to prepare you to complete any stunts or tumbling passes. Take 15-20 minutes to stretch and warm up your body.
Stunting is a pivotal component of cheerleading. It excites the crowd and really shows the unified dedication of a team. While it is dazzling, it is also very dangerous. A 2015 study1 from Pediatrics showed that while cheerleading injuries were less frequent when compared to other sports, they tend to be more severe. Cheerleading injuries ranked second (behind gymnastics) in the proportion of injuries that resulted in an athlete being benched for at least three weeks or for the entire season. Furthermore concussions were found to be the most common cheerleading injury, accounting for 31 percent of all cheerleading injuries.
When stunting, always put your hair in a high ponytail when stunting. This decreases the risk of hair being pulled and the flyer—the person being thrown in the air—from stepping on it. Do not wear any jewelry while stunting. Jewelry can get caught on uniforms or hair. It can break and land on the floor which can lead to cheerleaders falling on it. My most important tip is never pull a stunt you or a teammate is not comfortable with. If you feel you cannot implement a stunt without it falling do NOT do it. If a flyer does not feel comfortable about a stunt do NOT force them to continue with it. The worst case is when someone does not feel comfortable from the start and they end up seriously injuring themselves because they were too nervous and fell.
As a base—a person who supports the flyer, it is your job to safely get your flyer in the air and catch them. If you see the stunt is falling you must give your all to properly catch the flyer. The flyer has the highest risk of a serious injury because they are furthest from the ground. As a flyer, it is your job to balance and hold your positions tightly. This allows bases to easily hold, throw and catch you. Always take your role seriously. Although stunting is very fun, it is also very serious. Goofing off during stunting can lead to a sloppy stunt and injury. Make sure your shoes are tied tightly. This avoids tripping over laces. Never push yourself too hard. It is OK to take breaks. Stunting is very enervating work that requires breaks. You must always stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water.
It is always good to do strength training. Strength training allows bases to increase their strength to easily support flyers. Always try to gradually increase your weight. That way when you lift your flyer it will be effortless.
Always maintain a good relationship with your teammates. If you and a teammate have indifferences, please leave them out of cheerleading. This allows you to properly execute all routines safely. There have been too many revenge injuries of cheerleaders purposely dropping flyers due to an outside issue. You must be responsible because a grudge could seriously hurt someone.
Always remember to be safe, be confident, and have fun. Cheerleading is a wonderful sport that takes dedication, determination, and unification. I hope these tips will benefit you in the long run.
For more tips on keeping your child safe and protecting yourself from injury, visit Cheer Safe, a program of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators.
1 Cheerleading Injuries in United States High Schools. Dustin W. Currie, Sarah K. Fields, Michael J. Patterson, R. Dawn Comstock. Pediatrics Jan. 2016, 137 (1) e20152447; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2015-2447