The Dangers of Cheerleading
The football field can be a dangerous place; but are the sidelines even more hazardous? Nearly 30,000 cheerleaders are sent to the emergency room each year with injuries ranging from sprains and strains, to fractures, to even paralysis and death. “In all fairness, this is just like football,” plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon says. “The injuries, when they do occur, can really be serious."
Many of the injuries occur during stunts that send the cheerleaders high into the air. A 100-pound girl tossed 25 feet in the air falls toward the ground at about 30 mph. If she hits concrete, she lands at a force of about seven tons, or 14,000 pounds!
“It has serious consequences for bones and brain tissue,” pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears explains. “You can be seriously injured.”
Questions for Parents of Cheerleaders
- Is the coach certified by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators?
- Have in-depth background checks been performed on the coaches?
- Are safe, correct practice guidelines followed?
- Are skills and stunts taught in the correct sequence?
- Is there an emergency plan in place?
Cheerleading Safety Tips
1. Practice an emergency response plan with your squad:
- Make sure your child's coach is trained in first aid and CPR.
- Always make sure there is a telephone nearby in case of an emergency.
- Assign roles: The coach should always stay with the athlete and apply medical attention as trained. Squad members should know their roles, too. Someone should be assigned to call 911. Another person should be assigned to find the school nurse or athletic trainer, etc.
- Practice these roles so your squad is prepared in case a real emergency does happen.
2. Perform on an appropriate surface:
- Injuries caused by impact, such as concussions and spinal injuries, can be minimized by practicing on shock-absorbing surfaces.
- Wood gym floors, grass and Astroturf are not going to absorb impact as well as a gym mat.
3. Wear the appropriate shoes:
- Normal running shoes or cross trainers do not provide the flexibility, durability and ankle support needed for tumbling and stunting.
- Replace your cheerleading shoes at least once a year. Old shoes can lose their stability and shock absorption, causing stress to the feet and legs.
4. Learn the safe heights for a cheerleader to be tossed depending on the surface of the ground: