“Ashley’s Law,”named for Ashley Burns who died from a cheerleading stunt, would require EMTs and protective gear at games, competitions, and practices. In response to safety concerns, some schools are prohibiting stunts and keeping cheerleaders grounded.
Cheerleading includes gymnastics, tosses, partner stunts, and pyramid building. These challenges pose increased risk of injury. Injury prevention and safety precautions are essential help prevent injuries.
Here are several key points for injury prevention in cheerleading:
Complete rules can be found at www.aacca.org
Pre-season physicals identify chronic injuries to be treated or conditioning deficiencies to be remedied. Non-musculoskeletal health issues are addressed: cardiac arrhythmias, dizziness, and seizures. If present an aggressive work up should be done before participation is allowed.
Women participating in aesthetic sports are at increased risk for eating disorders. Carefully evaluate daily eating patterns and menstrual irregularities. Any athlete with a new stress fracture or overuse injury should also undergo screening. Abnormalities addressed immediately!
Any injury should be promptly evaluated and diagnosed to determine the extent of damage. Performing any sport with an injury can cause further trauma and long term complications.
Coaches must understand the risks of each maneuver. Safe performance is emphasized. Educating athletes about safe practice patterns will reduce injuries.
Gradually increase intensity of practice. Riskier maneuvers must be approached gradually with emphasis on mastery of the preceding skill.
Poor overall conditioning plays a huge role in injuries. Cheerleaders should participate in a year round conditioning program that consists of strength training, aerobic conditioning, and enhancing flexibility. “Base” athletes should concentrate on strengthening the shoulder and rotator cuff. All athletes should concentrate on strengthening the lower back and abdomen.
The best form of injury prevention is proper technique when executing skills. Proper landing technique helps in the prevention of knee and ankle injuries. Good form during routines promotes safety for all athletes involved in the performance.
Practicing on hard floors without mats leads to overuse injuries, and to more severe injuries when falls occur. If mats are unavailable, practicing outdoors on the grass or using well-cushioned shoes can reduce impact. Adequate space and height and access to athletic trainers should be provided.
Shoes should be well-fitted and comfortable. Broad soles may reduce the risk of ankle sprains. Cross-trainers or running shoes are excellent choices. Shoes should be chosen for function, not solely for aesthetics.
Spotters assist in the development of new skills and decrease risk of injury. Spotters correct body position and form and develop confidence in performance.
Most injuries occur in practice. Loss of concentration contributes to injuries. Focus is essential especially during the execution of skills.
Athletes should work within their level of ability. Advanced skills require time to master. There is a progression to developing new skills. Athletes should acknowledge their limitations in order to prevent injury.
Finally, emergency procedures and plans should be carefully outlined prior to any practice and performance. Coaches and supervisors should know first aid and the location of the nearest telephone. Emergency transportation should be available.
Cheerleading carries some unavoidable risk. Participants must take responsibility for their own safety and that of their fellow squad members. Nonetheless, safety precautions can reduce the severity and frequency of injuries.
Visit your doctor regularly, and listen to your body.