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Cheerleading Safety

Is your child doing cartwheels at the thought of being a cheerleader? It's not just a matter of standing on the sidelines looking good in a uniform. Today, it's often an athletic pursuit with a risk for injury. Cheerleading now demands increasingly difficult stunts and activities.

Injuries linked to cheerleading may happen, as it has evolved into a sport that demands great strength, agility, and gymnastic skill.

Many injuries are minor sprains and strains, especially in the lower extremities, and some injuries affect the head and neck. Most cheerleading injuries occur during maneuvers such as pyramids and tosses and gymnastics moves.

Safety rules have been provided by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA). A safe program includes direct adult supervision, proper conditioning, skills training, and warm-up exercises. The following are some general guidelines for high school cheerleaders from the AACCA:

A. A qualified and knowledgeable adviser or coach must be on hand.

B. Practice sessions should be supervised and held in a safe and appropriate location.

C. Individual and squad ability levels should be recognized and stunts should be planned and performed accordingly. 

D. Participants should have proper training in cheerleading gymnastics.

E. Mandatory professional training in proper spotting techniques must be held.

F. Participants should be enrolled in a comprehensive conditioning and strength-building program.

G. No jewelry should be allowed.

H. Structured stretching exercise and flexibility and warm-up routines should be held before and after practice sessions, game activities, and pep rallies.

I. Only appropriate surfaces should be used for tumbling, partner stunts, pyramids, and jumps.

J. Cheerleaders' skills should be assessed according to accepted teaching progressions and appropriate spotting should be used until all performers demonstrate skill mastery.

K. Hard and unyielding supports or rough edges or surfaces must be appropriately covered.

L. Athletic shoes, not gymnastic slippers, must be worn.

M. Props, such as signs, should be made of solid material with no sharp edges or corners. All signs should be gently tossed or kept under control.