Cheerleading: safe or scary?

By • Published: February 5th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

So your daughter wants to don a colorful outfit, grab some pom-poms and join her pals on a cheerleading squad.

You’re cool with that. At least it’s safer than soccer, basketball or hockey. But wait … maybe it’s not.

Cheerleading isn’t the simple ‘rah-rah!’ activity that most people think. With everything from tumbling to big group stunts woven into routines, there’s plenty of potential for accidents.

The number of cheerleading injuries seen yearly in emergency rooms increased more than four-fold between 1980 and 2007, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. From 2003 to 2009, cheerleading annually caused about five catastrophic injuries in the U.S. … those leading to permanent brain damage, paralysis or death. Take the number of participants into account, and cheerleading has a higher rate of serious injury than any other high school girls’ sport.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has noticed. The group recommends cheerleading be officially recognized as a sport. Currently, 29 states categorize it that way, but the rest, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, do not.

Recognizing cheerleading as a sport allows regulators to enforce standards for facilities, coaches’ qualifications, medical screening and the way cheering skills are performed. They also can require conditioning and strength training, plus access to medical care and athletic trainers. All theSse factors may help reduce injuries.

Cheerleading programs can vary greatly in practices. Visit the website of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators to see if a coach is certified and trained in safety. While you’re there, brush up on basic safety rules and check to see if the squad complies. Then you can decide if cheering is the sport for your son or daughter.