I’d like to share some recommendations to try to prevent cheerleading injuries, or at least decrease their risk. These tips include those from the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisers (AACCA). They also include some of my own perspectives.
All cheerleading coaches should acquire proper training and certification.
While data varies in terms of rates of cheerleading injuries supervised by qualified coaches versus lesser-experienced coaches, it is still advisable that all cheerleading coaches obtain certification. Education about techniques for stunts and tumbling passes is essential, but it is just as important that coaches understand safety measures and baseline injury recognition and treatment.
Cheerleaders must be trained in proper techniques for spotting and stunting.
Each athlete should only attempt stunts after she has demonstrated the technical skill required for each maneuver.
Learn and follow the rules for basket tosses and pyramids.
I discussed the specific recommendations in an earlier post. It is essential that coaches and athletes understand the limits for height and number of participants for each maneuver. Likewise, cheerleading teams should utilize mats whenever possible.
A proper surface for cheerleading is essential.
When pyramids, tumbling passes and other stunts will be performed, these activities should never be performed on wet, hard, or otherwise unsafe surfaces.
All cheerleaders should undergo a preparticipation physical exam before each season.
A prior musculoskeletal injury is thought to be a risk factor for future injury. A physician should access these injuries before the season begins. Likewise, a thorough medical screening should be performed on these athletes annually.
Cheerleaders, like all athletes, should perform routine strength and conditioning training.
For example, it is critical that spotters and bases have enough upper body and core muscle strength and balance to support the flyers.
All athletes who exhibit any signs or symptoms of a concussion must be removed immediately from the practice or competition.
She should not be allowed to return until she has been thoroughly evaluated by a healthcare provider, preferably one familiar with sports-related head injuries.
Access to a certified athletic trainer and other medical staff is crucial.
The immediate presence of an athletic trainer, or at least having one nearby, is critical for initial evaluation and treatment of injuries. If possible, a close relationship with a team physician is also advisable. Coaches should work with the medical staff to develop an emergency medical plan. That plan should be shared with the school, parents, and all of the cheerleaders.
Continued collection of data on cheerleading injuries is essential.
The more data that we can collect in terms of types of injury, management and long-term effects of injury, and much more will help sports medicine surgeons and physicians develop better injury prevention recommendations and treatments.