March is Cheerleader Safety Month

March is Cheerleader Safety Month
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Recently, there has been a significant amount of attention on the numerous injuries that children sustain playing sports in today’s age. For example, football has without a doubt taken a significant amount of heat for the numerous concussions and miscellaneous other head injuries that children can sustain, possibly leading to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) down the road; however, the cheerleader injuries that young girls and boys can sustain is no less serious. With Februrary being cheerleader safety month, it is important to examine how cheerleader accidents occur, what type of injuries children can sustain, and what children and parents can do to minimize the risk of suffering injuries down the road.

What Age Should Children Start in Cheerleading?

When people see the way that children and college students engage in cheerleading on TV and at live sporting events, they are undoubtedly in awe of the numerous acrobatics that the cheerleaders engage in. Furthermore, this is how many children first get exposed to cheerleading and where they are inspired to take up the sport themselves; however, a common question that parents have is when their children are old enough to engage in such a high energy sport. While there isn’t an actual minimum age recommended for children to get started in the sport, there are a few questions that parents need to ask themselves before they enroll their children in this acrobatic sport. Some of the questions parents need to answer include:

Will my child pay attention to the coaches and trainers during practice?

Will my child get burnt out of cheerleading if they start too young?

Will they be willing to attend practice without putting up a fuss for the entire cheering season?

Are my children going to be okay being apart from me while practices and training sessions are going on?

Will my child be able to remember the moves and execute the various routines in rhythm with other children?

Is my child going to have time to be a regular kid?

If parents give positive answers to the questions above, they may be ready to start the process of becoming a cheerleader. Because children all mature at different rates, it is important to note that while a six-year-old child may be ready to join the sport, an older child may not. Parents know their children better than anyone else and they are the party that is best equipped to decide whether or not their child is ready. Parents also need to know that because the sport is a high-energy activity, there is also a risk that their children will get hurt. What are some of the more common injuries in cheerleading and how do they occur?

How do Cheerleading Injuries Occur?

Like all competitve sports, cheerleading has an inherent risk of injury that goes along with the activity and there are a number of ways that these injuries can occur. One of the most common ways that injuries can occur is simply from landing awkwardly on a limb following a trick or a routine. There are also more acute injuries that can occur if children or cheerleaders are thrown up in the air and are not able to land on their feet. For this reason, may tricks are tried in a foam pit before they are tried on the floor. Finally, other injuries can develop simply due to stress or overuse. Therefore, it is important to keep kids stretching before and after practice, keep them hydrated, and to give them regular breaks so that their bodies can recover.

Common Cheerleading Injuries

There are several injuries that are common in the world of cheerleading. One of the most common injuries is an ankle sprain, which can occur when someone lands awkwardly and rolls their foot. There are also bone fractures that can occur if someone lands on their shoulder or arm. Unfortunately, catastrophic injuries can also occur if a child lands on their head or neck. This is why all routines are carefully rehearsed before they are tried on the floor or in competition. This helps to minimize the risk of a catastrophic injury.

Prevention of Cheerleading Accidents

There are several tips and tricks that parents and their children should keep in mind to minimize the risk of cheerleading injuries. First, all tricks and routines should be practiced on a soft mat. This will help to minimize the impact on the bones and joints and reduce the chance of injury. Next, keeping kids fit and in shape will improve the muscle strength around bones and joints which will, in turn, reduce the chance of an injury. Finally, all tricks should be performed with a spotter who is ready to act if there is any chance that an injury could occur with a flip or trick.

It is important for parents and their children to note that these are only a few of the numerous injuries that could occur during cheerleading; however, they should not get discouraged. Remember, every competitive sport has a risk of injury along with it and this alone should not preclude children from joining the world of competitive sports, including cheerleading. Sports, in addition to keeping kids in shape, teach children a number of important life skills including time management, commitment, and discipline. Instead, this should merely serve to make parents more aware of the risks of injury that come with competitive sports, including cheerleading, so that these injuries can be prevented as much as possible.

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David R is a writer who contributes to the Academy Alert.

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