How to Keep Your Cheerleaders Safe from Falls and Injuries

cheer1-fbAlthough cheerleading wasn’t born in North Texas, it got here as fast as it could. In 1948, a Dallas SMU cheerleader named Lawrence Herkimer held the country’s first summer cheer clinic just north of Houston. There he developed his signature “Herkie” jump, the spirit stick and pom-poms — iconic cheerleading staples still used today. In 1961, he incorporated the National Cheerleaders Association and modern-day cheerleading was launched.

Since then, cheerleading has evolved from a sideline activity to include competitive events where the cheerleaders are the stars. With more than 3.5 million U.S. participants annually, cheerleading is the No. 1 female sport in the nation. But its large numbers of participants and increasing difficulty levels also make it No. 2 in catastrophic sports injuries. Only football ranks higher.

Common cheerleading injuries that can lead to ER visits.

Cheerleaders commonly experience injuries to their feet, ankles and legs. But they are also at risk for concussions and serious neck and back injuries, which can cause permanent disabilities. “Flyers,” the young ladies who are thrown into the air during certain maneuvers, are particularly vulnerable to these types of injuries.

Although cheerleading — especially competitive cheer — requires gymnastic ability, strength and a high degree of fitness, it has only recently been recognized as an official sport. Besides validating cheerleaders everywhere, this means it will now be subject to stricter safety regulations, which is a good thing.

Keeping your cheerleaders safe.

Since most cheerleading injuries happen during practice, it goes without saying that it’s crucial to have the right practice facilities, equipment, training and coaches.

Practice facilities:

  • Spring floors or 4-inch-thick landing mats on top of foam floors are best
  • Never practice on basketball courts or other hard surfaces
  • Practice area should be level, smooth, dry and free of dangerous objects

Equipment:

  • It’s all about the shoes: They should fit properly, have rubber soles and adequate cushioning and support
  • Make a good inVESTment: If your daughter is a flyer, consider a lightweight cheer vest, which may offer some protection from bruising and injuries
  • Safety harnesses can help when learning jumps and other advanced moves

Training:

  • Cheerleading is a physically demanding sport, so being fit before cheer season starts will help decrease the chance of injuries
  • Always warm up before practices and cheer events
  • Consider gymnastics or dance classes to help hone skills, build strength and flexibility and boost confidence
  • Prevent overtraining and overuse injuries by taking 2 days off per week for any single sport and 1 day off per week from all organized sports
  • Build on skills by perfecting basic stunts first and adding more complicated moves only when confident enough to do so
  • Make sure spotters are used to practice difficult, dangerous or new stunts

Coaches:

When injuries occur.

In cheerleading, even a slight injury can cause problems if it isn’t treated properly.

  • Any pain or discomfort should not be ignored, but reported to coaches right away
  • “Playing through the pain” can make some injuries more severe and require longer recovery times
    • This is especially true for head injuries and concussions
  • Know what to do in the event of an emergency; for example, should you call your doctor, visit an urgent care center or go straight to the ER?
  • Be aware of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders: Cheerleaders, like dancers and gymnasts, are under constant pressure to stay thin and are at increased risk for body image issues, anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders

When a cheer turns into a cry of pain, one of our many Medical City ER emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you.

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