“Safety Selfie” Campaign for National Cheerleading Safety Month LAUNCHES INTERACTIVE ‘safety selfie’ CAMPAIGN FOR NATIONAL CHEERLEADING SAFETY MONTH, the source for cheerleading safety resources, engages athletes nationwide with the #iCheerSafe campaign.

Memphis, Tenn., March 6, 2014 –, the portal for news and information on cheerleading safety supported by USA Cheer and the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators, is debuting the #iCheerSafe campaign for National Cheerleading Safety Month for March 2014. Read more…

By |March 7th, 2014|Newsroom

Cheer Safety Through Coaches’ Eyes

By Cyndi Hadfield

As with all sports, the cheerleading community has had to re-evaluate and update the safety rules guiding it over the years. The safety guidelines and procedures that have been set into place have been a great advancement in the protection of our athletes. But it is the cheerleading coach who must make implementing these safety practices his or her top priority to ensure the protection of the cheerleader.

While specific rules of competition, stunts and tumbling may continue to evolve and be modified, some standard safety practices should always be in place. Here are some easy tips that all coaches should consider.

Share.  Share your knowledge of safety procedures and guidelines with your team. Safety is everyone’s responsibility and the team can share in decisions that affect their safety. Understanding the importance of a safe area, progression of stunts, AACCA guidelines, and your Emergency Action Plan will empower the team to take an active role in the protection of its members.

Area.  Cheerleading teams are not always provided with an ideal area in which to practice. Many teams are not afforded gym time with appropriate mats and square footage for stunting and tumbling. Be vigilant about the area where your practices take place and secure an area that fits the needs of cheerleading.  During games and performance, be sure that your stunts and tumbling skills are being done on approved surfaces, free of obstacles, and not during game play that may occur near you.

Forms.  Paperwork is involved with any occupation, and cheerleading coaches have their share.  Ideally, all cheerleaders would be treated as other athletes in an educational setting and physical screenings would be required. If that is the case, be sure that all physical […]

By |November 22nd, 2013|Safety

Ankle Sprains and Cheerleading

By Jeffrey R. Dugas, MD

Medical Director, USA Cheer

Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center


             This past spring I worked with members of Team USA, the team that represents America at the International Cheer Union World Championships in Orlando, Florida. Prior to the onset of training, each Team USA member had to pass a pre-participation physical examination (PPE).  During these examinations, the most commonly reported injury among the team members each year are ankle sprains. Most of the athletes have suffered some form of ankle sprain during their years of cheerleading, and several have had repeated injuries, causing them to use braces on their ankles when cheering. The information contained in this writing is meant to give the reader some insight into ankle sprains and the common treatment options for return to activity.

Ankle sprains occur as the result of a twisting mechanism at the ankle, which is common in nearly every form of sport activity, including cheerleading. The most common type of sprain involves an injury to the ankle as the result of “rolling over” or “inverting” the ankle. This type of injury occurs when the foot becomes inverted (bottom of the foot pointing towards the other leg), placing a large tensile stress on the ligaments on the outside of the affected ankle. Depending on the amount of stress/energy imparted to the tissues, one or more ligaments may be affected. The more ligaments that are affected, the higher grade the injury. Also, ligament tissue may be partially (sprain) or completely (torn) disrupted.

The ligaments around the ankle tear in a predictable sequence with inversion type injuries. The first ligament to experience the stress of such an injury is the Anterior Talo-Fibular Ligament […]

By |September 5th, 2013|Safety

Doing The Wrong Thing For The Right Reason… Overtraining in Cheerleading

by Gwen Holtsclaw, President and CEO of Cheer Ltd.

It had been a great seminar.  The coaches at this national conference had listened intently as I discussed “The Ethics of Coaching.”   When I opened the Q & A session, I expected to get questions on a variety of ethical dilemmas like confidentiality, body image, and bullying.  I was wrong.

The first question was “Do you believe coaches are unethical when they knowingly overtrain these young athletes just to win?”  and that question opened the floodgates:  What constitutes overtraining?  Is overtraining even a real thing?   Whose “fault” is overtraining?

Let’s take the questions in reverse order.  Overtraining is not an issue of “fault.” Rather, it is a classic example of coaches and cheerleaders doing the wrong thing for the right reason.   Coaches practice too long, too hard, and too frequently because they want to create a successful and winning season for their team.  Cheerleaders work too hard, play past real pain, and ignore an injury because they don’t want to let the team down.  The reasons are right—the overtraining, however, is wrong.

Overtraining is definitely a real thing.  It masks itself as dedication and “no pain, no gain” when it is really an epic failure to balance hard work with proper rest and recovery.    Too often, cheer coaches fail to realize that they are not coaching full grown adults.  Children and teenagers are vulnerable to growth-plate injuries all the way to 18 years of age with 16-18 being prime injury years.  Overtraining has the most direct impact on these growth-plate injuries.

How can coaches know what constitutes overtraining and when they have crossed the line from a well-disciplined team to an overtrained team?  Take a broad look at your team and see if you detect any of […]

By |August 14th, 2013|Safety

Safety in Action

Varsity, one of CheerSafe’s member organizations, is devoted to safety at their educational camps this summer.

Before the camp season even starts, each instructor must attend a rigorous multiple-day training session that covers best practices for cheerleading safety, including proper spotting and building techniques as well as training in skill progressions. However, prior to attending this training, instructors must first complete the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches & Administrators (AACCA) Certification Course. Once they have passed the AACCA course and their own training program, only then are they are allowed to serve as instructors for Varsity summer camps, under the brands Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA), National Cheerleaders Association (NCA), and United Spirit Association (USA).

Once at the camps, instructors not only demonstrate safety techniques throughout the camp, they also teach the high school and college cheerleaders how to stay safe throughout the camp and into the rest of their school year.

The instructors also teach cheerleaders the stunt progressions and the importance of following them. They stress that no matter how skilled they are, it’s important to start with the basics and work their way up at each practice. This not only helps warm up their bodies, but also reinforces using the correct technique.

Cheerleaders are also taught other important safety lessons like:

  • Only stunting on approved surfaces.
  • If a coach isn’t around, no cheerleaders should attempt to a stunt or skill.
  • Knowing their role in their Emergency Action Plan.

Cheerleaders aren’t the only ones who learn about safety at camp; their coaches do, too. Each day at camp, coaches attend a Coaches Meeting and learn how to ensure their program’s safety. The instructors will transfer their knowledge about skill and spotting technique to the coaches. The coaches will develop their Emergency […]

By |July 15th, 2013|Safety

What is Sports Medicine?

By Jeffrey R. Dugas, MD

CheerSafety_image248Simply put, sports medicine is the care of the active population. It’s not specific to those who participate in high-level competitive sports, and it is very definitely not age-exclusive. Try telling a healthy 75 year old that he or she is too old or out of shape to be treated like an active healthy person — and beware of the left hook coming your way.  The practice of sports medicine is geared towards anyone interested in maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, whether through recreational activity or elite competitive sports participation.

Regardless of level of “play,” active people have a certain urgency to return to their regular level of function after sustaining an injury. For instance, take a banker who enjoys playing recreational basketball. He may not wear a number on his t-shirt when he plays, but to him, this activity is an important part of his lifestyle, and a caregiver must recognize the level of importance he places on it. This is what differentiates the sports medicine specialist from other practitioners. The sports medicine specialist shares in the desire to return the “athlete” to his or her desired level of activity as quickly and safely as possible. The sports medicine specialist is experienced in the common injury patterns found in every type of active lifestyle. Even work-related injuries are sometimes the domain of the sports medicine specialist, because of the desire of the injured party to return to work or sport as quickly and safely as possible.

How does this apply to the cheerleading world?  The popularity of cheerleading has exploded over the last 10 years, with participation continuing to rise […]

By |May 17th, 2013|Safety

Everyone Needs an Athletic Trainer

A Call to Action! A United Front for Safety!
by Karen Lew, MEd., ATC, LAT

March is National Cheerleading Safety Month, National Athletic Training Month, and Brain Injury Awareness Month. March is a great month to review all protocols that improve safety and injury awareness. It is hard to go one day without hearing some type of information on head injuries in sports. Within cheerleading, we are hoping to provide the necessary information and educational pieces that will help reduce head injuries and any confusion among athletes, coaches and administrators about how they should be handled. It is the goal of USA Cheer to make the public aware of the protocols that have been created and implemented within the past two years. Creating a well-educated and united team response to any head injury will provide all participants with the best care possible.

A concussion is a trauma-induced change in mental status, with confusion and amnesia, and with or without a brief loss of consciousness. Concussions can also be referred to as Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). A concussion occurs when the head hits or is hit by an object, or when the brain is jarred against the skull, with sufficient force to cause temporary loss of function in the higher centers of the brain. The injured person may remain conscious or lose consciousness briefly, and is disoriented for some minutes after the blow. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 300,000 people sustain mild to moderate sports-related brain injuries each year, most of them young men between 16 and 25.

While a concussion usually resolves on its own without lasting effect, it can set the stage for a much more serious condition. […]

By |March 26th, 2013|Safety

March is National Cheerleading Safety Month

March is National Cheerleading Safety Month. Help protect cheerleaders by spreading the word about cheerleading safety and by making sure your cheer program follows recognized progressions and safety rules. Check back here all during March as we focus on various aspects of cheerleading safety!

Even though the emphasis is on cheer safety at all times, it’s always good to refocus and take stock of your safety program. Follow us on twitter and join the facebook event to get great safety tips all month long and throughout the year.

Costa Mesa High School cheerleaders showing some love for their athletic trainer!

Costa Mesa High School cheerleaders showing some love for their athletic trainer!

Here are some simple steps you can take this month to improve cheer safety:

It’s also National Athletic Training Month, where this year’s slogan is “Every Body Needs and Athletic Trainer”. What a great opportunity to show your AT how much you appreciate what they do!

So, make sure your certifications are up to date, review and rehearse that emergency plan, involve your athletes, parents and administrators in your safety program and help keep our cheerleaders safe!

By |February 28th, 2013|Newsroom, Safety

Increased Focus Helps Avoid Injury

Cheerleading, like all sports, comes with risk. We’ve all heard the phrase that “injuries are part of sports”.  That isn’t a reason to turn a blind eye to prevention and just accept that any injury is part of the game.  As coaches, as parents and as athletes we all must refocus our energies on preventing injuries. With this focus in your program, you lower the risk of injury and increase the chance that when there is an injury it can be attributed to an unpreventable accident instead of something that never had to occur.

According to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study, 60% of injuries most commonly result from a stunt.  It stands to reason that a focus on reducing the number of falls from stunts can result in a lower injury rate in cheerleading.

Falls happen. They happen when learning new stunts and they happen even after stunts are mastered. Again this is true of all sports. Who hasn’t seen an Olympic gymnast fall on the beam, resulting in a landing on the neck or head on the beam or simply having to step off after losing their balance on a turn. This is a skill she has been working on since she was probably 4 or younger.

But falls, no matter how small, open the window for an injury. Even when caught properly by spotters and bases, there is still a risk of injury. After all, the focus of the spotters and bases during a fall is to protect the head, neck and shoulder area of the top person. Landing on someone’s foot can still twist, sprain or even break an ankle depending on the force and angle of the landing. […]

By |February 9th, 2013|Newsroom

Recent Cheerleading Safety Studies Show Cheer Injury Rates Low, Major Injuries Drastically Reduced

A review of available data shows that not only are cheerleading injury rates much lower than have been reported in the media, catastrophic injuries are on a steep decline over the last 5 years.


Catastrophic Injuries Trending Downward

Cheerleading Catastrophic Injury Trends 2001-2011

Chart 1: Cheerleading Catastrophic Injury Trends 2001-2011

Recent media reports incorrectly have claimed that cheerleading makes up the majority of sports injuries in high school and college sports. That claim is false and clearly refuted by simply looking at the publicly available data.  It is clear that the sport with the highest number of catastrophic injuries by far is football.  In fact, the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research 2011 reports shows that over the past ten years, there have been 358 direct catastrophic injuries for football and 62 for cheer. Football also has a far higher number of direct deaths, with 39 compared to 1 for cheer over this 10 year period (data is spread over two reports, here and here).

More importantly, cheerleading catastrophic injuries have been on a sharp decline since additional safety rules and safety training were put into place in 2005-2006. That year there were 12 high school and college catastrophic injuries. In each successive year, the number of catastrophic injuries has dropped, with only 1 reported catastrophic injury in 2010-2011 (See Chart 1).

Catastrophic claims with the NCAA have also dropped significantly. According to the Mutual of Omaha, “the Cheer Safety Initiative began in 2006 and since this time there has only been one injury for which benefits are payable under the NCAA Catastrophic policy and the injury is not truly catastrophic in nature.” Prior to this initiative, 25% of catastrophic claims at […]

By |February 6th, 2013|Newsroom