According to a study released last month by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at UNC-Chapel Hill, cheerleading accounts 65.1% of all injuries to the brain or spine among high school age girls. No other sport for girls even comes close to this figure. Even more minor injuries such as sprain and strains are on the rise. Because safety is increasingly important as stunts become ever-more impressive, here is a list of tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) on how to keep everyone safe.
* A cheerleading squad should practice and perform only under the direction of a qualified and knowledgeable adviser or coach.
* Make sure the environment is suitable for the activity. For example, cheerleading practice should take place on a surface with the appropriate matting — not on hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt, wet or uneven surfaces, or surfaces with obstructions.
* All squads should receive thorough training in proper spotting techniques.
* Never build a stunt without the coach present.
* All stunts, including pyramids and basket tosses, should be reviewed and approved by the coach prior to execution.
* Familiarize your squad with the most common cheerleading injuries (sprains, strains, head and neck injuries, fractures and dislocations and how to treat them. Establish a chain of command (coach, assistant coach, captain, co-captain and so on) that you use in case an injury occurs.