Many people hear the word cheerleading, and automatically think of football games, waving pom poms, and megaphones. But, it is so much more. Cheerleading has become a highly competitive and demanding sport featuring intense athletic ability with intricate skill sets that can sometimes be dangerous.
Cheerleading has more to offer than athleticism. It promotes teamwork, leadership, and a strong work ethic. But, it does come with its risks. Injuries, some more serious than others, are a threat to athletes, especially in stunting - where 4 to 5 individuals lift one person above their heads in a variety of positions. Such maneuvers performed with a lack of technique can cause damage to joints - knees, wrist, ankles - or cause more severe injuries like concussions.
However, there are precautions individuals can take when choosing to pursue or wanting to continue with cheerleading:
Safe Practice Space
It is said most cheerleading injuries happen during practice. It is important to find a facility with floors that absorb impact well — like spring floors or thick landing mats — rather than on a hard surface. Tour the practice space where you'll be practicing to be sure it provides an environment that is leveled, ventilated, and unobstructed.
Experienced & Certified Coaches
Make sure all coaches, owners, instructors, program director, etc. are qualified and experienced. Check if they have certifications from reputable organizations. Seek reviews and feedback from parents, athletes, and/or other business individuals of the program and/or coach. A qualified coach will be up to date on the latest safety measures, industry news, technique, and education.
Get Strong On and Off Season
Strength and flexibility is top priority in cheerleading. It is important to stay fit and eat a healthy, balanced diet while getting regular exercise to reduce the chance of injury. Enroll in an strength training program and take gymnastics lessons to increase confidence and athletic ability; rest the body at least 2 days a week to prevent overtraining and exhaustion; and always warm-up with dynamic exercises to get the blood flowing and with dynamic stretching to loosen up the muscles.
Master Your Skills
Take the time to perfect lower-level and less complicated skills before moving on to more difficult ones - perfection before progression. Having a mastery of skills will make you more confident, and less likely to get injured. Never attempt a skill set that's beyond your skill level without the appropriate supervision and training, and let your coach know if you do not feel comfortable doing something new.