A Safety Guide for Cheerleading
Safety is a big concern in all sports and cheerleading is no exception. Because it combines both stunting and gymnastics, there are many opportunities for accidents if the proper precautions aren’t taken.
Both cheer athletes and coaches alike should always practice awareness, communication and good judgment.
Most, if not all, cheer safety rules may seem like common sense, which makes it easier for you to remember. If you follow the safety guide below, you and your team with be one step closer to an injury-free season!
Basic Cheer Safety
While your team, gym, or cheer program may have its own specific safety rules posted, some basic safety rules of cheerleading are:
- Remove all jewelry
- Wear athletic shoes
- Keep your hair tied back
- Always have supervision
- Practice on safe surfaces such as mats and padded floors
- Have an emergency plan
Quick Reminder for Cheer Coaches
As a coach, you are in charge of the well being of your team, regardless of their age. You must take all proper precautions to ensure the safety of your cheerleaders. This means supervising all stunting and tumbling, as well as providing proper equipment like mats and pads. Also, you should be the one to create an emergency plan in case an accident should occur.
The best way to ensure that you are taking all of the proper safety precautions is to be certified by a safety organization like The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches & Administrators. The AACCA offers workshops and online courses that are designed to educate coaches in cheerleading safety and risk management.
Currently, over 70,000 coaches in the United States have been certified by the AACCA, proving that cheerleading safety is gaining attention throughout the country.
Not necessarily a fun fact, but true and important to know! The most common cheerleading injuries are broken arms and sprained ankles.
Guidelines for Safe Stunting
Stunting is one of the most exciting parts of cheerleading, for both the audience and for the cheerleaders themselves. Because they add that “wow” factor to routines, stunts continue to become more difficult, and therefore more risky as teams up their skill level in the pursuit of higher scores and a more engaged crowd. Unfortunately, with more impressive stunts comes a higher chance of injury.
In order to stay out of harm’s way and still perform spectacular stunts, there are a few basic guidelines that must be followed:
- Always use a spotter: A spotter can help put up a stunt, as well as catch the flyer in case of an emergency. It is never a bad idea to have an extra person keeping their eye on a stunt.
- Follow proper progression: Do not move from a basic stunt to an advanced stunt. Work your way up slowly and master each skill before you move onto something more difficult.
- Practice proper technique: If you become sloppy with your timing or body position, you are increasing you and your teammate’s chances of injuries.
- Don’t fool around: Stunting should be taken very seriously—someone is being lifted into the air! Do not goof off. Instead, remain calm, focused, and aware of the potential danger.
- Communicate: Designate one person in your stunt group to call out directions and keep time, and always follow their lead. If something isn’t going right in a stunt, let your teammates know. You are working as a unit, so you must talk to one another.
- Don’t ignore injuries: If you are hurt, do not continue stunting. You do not want to risk injuring yourself further or hurting someone else in your stunt group. Listen to your body to prevent doing more damage.
- Stay in shape: You will be more likely to get hurt stunting if you are out of shape. You need to be strong and have endurance in order to stunt properly.
It is reported that All Star teams have more injuries than any other type of cheer team.
Safe Tumbling Techniques
When performing any sort of acrobatics, safety should always be a top concern. Tumbling is no different. There is nothing better than nailing a tough tumbling pass and feeling that rush of adrenaline; however, there is nothing worse than missing the mark and injuring yourself.
Tumbling can go either way, so it is up to you to take all of the proper precautions when working on a skill. When tumbling you should. . .
- Get proper instruction: Do not start tumbling on your own. Either get proper instruction at a gym or from your coach.
- Always use a spotter: Until you have mastered a skill, use a spotter. They are there to help you in case of an accident. Usually, a spotter will just give you the extra little push that you need to land, but they can also be there to save your life.
- Follow proper progression: Just like in stunting, you should not move from a beginner skill to an advanced skill. Start off with the basics, and once you master them, then move onto the intermediate skills. Do not get ahead of yourself!
- Don't push it: Tumbling can be frightening. If you are scared to do something, don’t do it. If you are uncomfortable performing a certain skill, keep practicing lower level skills until you are ready to move on.
- Focus: Tumbling is not something to be taken lightly. You should always be mentally prepared for the skill you are about to perform. If you aren’t focused, you are putting yourself at risk for injuries.
- Warm up: Get your body ready to move by stretching and practicing basic tumbling skills like a round-off. If you perform a skill without warming up, you are making yourself more vulnerable to torn ligaments and pulled muscles.
- Don’t tumble through pain: It’s simple: If you are hurt, don’t tumble. Tumbling requires the use of your entire body, and there is no way to avoid a sore spot without impacting the rest of the skill or adding to your injury. Take time out and let yourself heal before you hit the mats again.
Always remember to be safe when cheering. Use common sense when practicing tumbling techniques with proper supervision and you'll be able to make improvements in a safe manner, The fun ends as soon as someone gets hurt, so do your best to prevent accidents. Don't take shortcuts, and remember these safety rules at your next practice!