Cheerleading is a competitive and demanding sport. Injuries can happen, some of them serious. The "flyers," the young women who are tossed into the air, are particularly at risk. To learn how to keep things as safe as possible, follow these tips.
Safe Cheerleading Gear
All cheerleaders need rubber-soled shoes with good cushioning and support that fit well. Flyers also might want to consider wearing a lightweight cheer vest while practicing to protect themselves from bruising and injuries.
To stay safe, cheerleaders should:
- Get a sports physical before starting any sport.
- Be in good shape before starting the season.
- Always warm up and stretch before practice, games, and competitions.
- Practice somewhere that has floors that absorb impact well — like spring floors or 4-inch-thick landing mats on top of foam floors. Never practice on a basketball court or other hard surface.
- Make sure the coach or program director is qualified and attends every practice. Cheerleading coaches should be certified by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA) or a similar organization. A qualified coach will be up to date on the latest safety recommendations.
- Have a coach or teammate be spotters for all new or difficult stunts.
- Let the coach know if they're uncomfortable with a stunt. If the coach isn't supportive, the cheerleader needs to tell a parent or administrator.
- Stop training if they get hurt or feel pain. They need to get checked by an athletic trainer, coach, doctor, or nurse before going back to practicing.
- Play different sports throughout the year to prevent overuse injuries.
- Never try a stunt at a game or competition that they have not practiced many times.
- Be sure the team has a plan for emergencies.
Cheerleading is a great group activity and an excellent way to stay fit. But just as with gymnastics, dancing, and ice skating, there's lots of pressure to stay thin. This puts cheerleaders at risk for eating disorders. Eating disorders can lead to serious health problems.
Coaches and parents should promote healthy eating and know the warning signs of eating disorders. When an eating disorder is caught early, a person has a better chance of recovery.