5 Tips for Cheerleading Safety

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Even though cheerleading is the most dangerous sport for high school girls, injuries both catastrophic and small can be prevented with a parent or coach's watchful eye toward safety. If your daughter (or son) is a member of a competitive squad, follow these tips to ensure safe and spirited cheerleading.

1. Make sure coaches are qualified and certified.
At the middle school and high school level, coaches may be professionally trained, or they may be just a teacher who has volunteered to supervise the team. Make sure the coach is certified by a cheerleading safety body, such as the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators. Also, be sure that your coach has—and follows— this safety checklist.

2.Be sure your child’s practice space is safe.
Foam mats should always be used for training. Stunts should not be practiced on a hard basketball gym floor. Spotters should stand by when a new stunt or gymnastic move is being learned.

3.Gymnastics should not be an afterthought.
If your child's coach expects a high level of gymnastics ability from the squad, sign her up for supplemental lessons at a certified gymnastics gym, rather than relying on cheerleading practice alone. Many cheerleading injuries are a result of poor gymnastics training.

4. Conditioning is key.
Good coaches push cheerleaders through weight and strength training to prevent typical wear-and-tear injuries, like tendonitis.

5.Treat injuries. Right away.
Your child may be told to "tough it out," but performing with anything other than a minor injury could make the symptoms worse, or chronic. Cheerleading should push athletes to, but not beyond, their limits.