“Two-four-six-eight, what do we appreciate? SAFETY! Yeah, yeah, safety!” OK, so that’s not exactly a cheer but there’s no doubt about it, cheerleading is a dangerous activity.
The rise in popularity of cheerleading is astounding. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “From 1990 to 2003, the number of U.S. cheerleaders age 6 and older increased by roughly 600,000, from 3 million to 3.6 million.”
Unfortunately, the increase in the cheerleading’s popularity has also lead a radical increase in injuries to the head, neck, and lower extremities. The AAP advises that since 2007, there have been 26,000 cheerleading injuries in the U.S. annually. Perhaps most disheartening, cheerleading is responsible for 66 percent of all catastrophic injuries in high school female athletes.
The AAP concludes that complicated acrobatics, inadequate coaching, and increased competition level by age has lead to increased risk factors of injury, calling cheerleading “one of the highest risk sporting events for direct catastrophic injuries that can result in permanent brain injury, paralysis or death.”
The AAP has issued new guidelines to prevent cheerleading injuries, read on to learn how you can help protect your young athlete.
Cheerleading should be recognized as a sport: It’s hard to believe, but only 29 state high school athletic associations have designated cheerleading as a sport. The AAP advises that cheerleading’s formal designation as a sport offers young athletes valuable protection, such as training by qualified coaches, well-maintained practice grounds, and access to certified athletic trainers.
All cheerleaders should undergo a pre-season physical: As a matter of safety, every cheerleader should have a pre-season physical. Additionally, the AAP recommends that cheerleaders have access to qualified strength and conditioning coaches.
Proper training: Stunts should not be performed until appropriate skill progression can be demonstrated. Mandatory training in all spotting techniques is also recommended.
Written emergency plan: Athletes, parents and coaches should have access to a written emergency plan.
In the event of a suspected head injury: The athlete must be removed from practice and evaluated by a medical professional before resuming activity.
Pyramid and partner stunts: Stunts should only be performed only on a spring/foam floor or on grass/turf. Stunts should never be performed on hard, wet or uneven surfaces. Pyramids should not be more than 2 people high.
For more details regarding the AAP’s new guidelines to prevent cheerleading injuries, click here.
What are your thoughts on the AAP’s new guidelines?
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