Ask The Experts
Q: My 12-year-old daughter wants to participate in a recreational cheerleading program. I think cheerleading would be a great way for her to meet new friends and be physically active, but I’m hesitant to let her join because of the injuries generally associated with the sport. Is cheerleading really as dangerous as it’s portrayed?
A: With more than 3 million participants involved in all levels of cheerleading, you can expect there to be a number of injuries, just as with any other sport or activity. The emphasis being placed on the injuries should be spent educating coaches, parents and participants.
In recent injury studies conducted by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the data clearly shows that the risks associated with cheerleading is in line with other male and female school sports, and in many cases the rate of injury in cheerleading is less.
Cheerleading is an activity that has proven to be beneficial for participants of all ages. The benefits of exercise, activity, strength training and overall physical improvement far outweigh the risk of injury. Cheerleading is available for all ages and levels of participants. As long as the child is physically capable of the demands of cheerleading and mentally prepared, the potential for injury should not factor into the decision of participation.
Parents should expect to receive some basic information about the program:
- Who will be working with their child, are they certified and is the program using acceptable practice, performance and competition guidelines?
- The way skills are taught, practiced and performed. Parents should feel confident that the appropriate sequence and skill progression is being used.
- The mission of the program their child will be participating in. Is the focus solely on competition or is there a balance of athletic training, spirit, leadership and community service?
- Is there an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) in place, and if so, how are the coaches, parents and participants educated on this plan? Every program should have an EAP that is reviewed and updated annually.
Parents can find more information about what they can do to ensure their child’s safety at http://www.aacca.org/media/resources/AACCA_Parents_Guide.pdf
Karen M. Lew, MEd., ATC, LAT is a certified athletic trainer that has been involved with cheerleading for 22 years. She is a member of the Team USA Medical Advisory committee, serves as the Director of Safety for USA Cheer and is involved with a variety of Cheerleading and Dance events.
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