Cheerleading Safety Tips from a Physical Therapist

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If you’ve ever done it, you know: cheerleading is a highly competitive sport. It’s physically and mentally demanding; it’s definitely not just about waving pom-poms around.

In fact, cheerleaders today face more injuries than ever before. They’re flying, flipping, and jumping through the air. Some even refer to cheerleading as the world’s most dangerous sport.

Yet, common injuries tend to be relatively minor. They frequently include areas such as the feet, legs, and ankles. However, when a serious injury does happen, it often involves the head, back, or neck. Thus, cheerleading safety rules and tips are important for parents and kids.

It doesn’t have to be National Cheerleading Safety Month for you to pay attention to these cheer safety rules. Being prepared no matter what time of year can help cheerleaders avoid injuries.

So, what should you know about cheerleading safety to protect your child or yourself? Let’s take a look from a physical therapist’s point of view.

Cheer Safety Starts With Strengthening Exercises Outside of Cheerleading Practice

Strengthening exercises provide an excellent way to thwart or reduce your chance of injury. Whether core-strengthening exercises, leg-focused, or other, these types of exercises create strong bones, muscles, and joints. They are therefore among the most important cheerleading safety tips to keep in mind.

So, what kind of exercises should you or your child be performing exactly?

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1. The Plank

The plank is a great way to challenge balance, stability, and core strength - all skills necessary to become a top cheerleader and enhance cheer safety. To perform this exercise:

  • Begin lying on your stomach.
  • Place your hands by your shoulders.
  • Push up onto your hands and toes. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your toes.
  • Make sure to contract your abdominals and glutes. Don’t let the belly drop or the back arch.
  • Aim to hold this position for 30 seconds. Gradually increase your holds by 15-second increments. Perform about 5-8 repetitions at a time, twice a day.

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2. Wall Squat Holds

This exercise is essential for cheerleading safety in building up critical muscle and strength in the quadriceps. To perform a wall squat hold:

  • Find a space of wall to use.
  • Lean your back on the wall, and slide down into a squat. Your thighs should be parallel with the floor.
  • Hold for 30 seconds. Like the plank, add 15-minute increments for more of a challenge. Perform 5-8 repetitions, twice a day.

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3. Burpees

This exercises utilizes all the major muscle groups in the body. Itn doing so, it allows you or your child to practice the explosiveness necessary in some movements without sacrificing cheerleading safety. To perform a burpee:

  • Jump straight up into the air, with your arm extended over your head.
  • Drop down to a plank and perform a full push-up.
  • Explode and jump back up into the air, and repeat.
  • Aim to perform 10-12 burpees in a row for 2-3 sets.

Be Aware of Common Cheerleading Safety Rules

There are a variety of cheer safety rules in place for a reason. Generally, the following cheerleading safety tips and rules should be followed throughout a cheer practice or performance:

  • The pyramid height is restricted to 2 levels in high school. In college, it can only be 2.5 body lengths tall. Base cheerleaders must remain in contact with the floor the whole time.
  • A toss should not involve more than 4 throwers. Floor mats are further recommended to ensure cheer safety and avoid injury during these tough moves.
  • Cheerleading safety tip: Don’t perform practice or a performance on wet surfaces or turf.
  • Spotters should always be present and ready.
  • In many leagues and associations, coaches often must pass cheerleading safety testing. In the USA, coaches must be registered with the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA). Check with the coach involved with your team or league to verify they are up-to-date with cheer safety rules.
  • Cheerleading is a progressive and gradual sport. This means that in order uphold cheerleader safety, beginners should not be performing moves or stunts outside of their level or realm. A cheerleader must master a previous skill set and level before proceeding onto tougher moves.

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Warming Up and Cooling Down is a Cheerleader Safety Tip That Prepares Your Body for Action

A key component of cheer safety is to make sure your muscles are ready for action. Get the blood flowing before diving into difficult stunts. Do a few jumping jacks combined with leg swings.

Almost anything that gets your body warm and your heart rate up is a sufficient warm-up. The goal of this cheerleading safety tip is to get the blood flowing.

In contrast, a cooldown can help ease sore muscles after a practice or performance. Stretching afterward may also prevent injury. Save time toward the end of practice to perform a proper and appropriate cooldown. This is important for cheer safety, as it’s critical for all athletes to ensure their bodies are prepared for impact.

Raise Awareness During National Cheerleading Safety Month

Especially during National Cheerleading Safety Month – though also at all other times of year – make sure you’re aware of potential injuries and how to prevent them. It is highly recommended to utilize pre concussion screening tests such as ImPACT and other injury prevention assessments with this population. As with any sport, cheerleading safety should be a top priority.

And if you or your child wants to prevent an injury or has experienced an injury while cheering, BetterPT can help you find your ideal physical therapist to set you on the road to recovery. Connect with a PT near you using the BetterPT website or mobile app. Being your own cheerleader is just as important as cheering on others, so get the treatment you deserve to feel your best.

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