Safety

Safety First: A Parent’s Guide to Cheerleading Safety

Safety First!

Is your child part of a safe cheerleading program? 

By Karen M. Lew

Are you sure your child is enrolled in the appropriate cheerleading program? How do you know if your child is being taught by qualified individuals? Is the gym actively involved in reducing injuries, providing a positive yet competitive environment and – most importantly – are they committed to the ongoing safety of your child?

If you have some doubts or have not done the necessary research to assure your child is safe, now is the time to do it.

Over the past several years cheerleading has changed, becoming more skill oriented, competitive and focused on talent, but one thing that has not changed is the need for the program to have value to your child and provide a safe environment.

In order to keep your child safe, take the time to review your child’s coaches, team and gym.

Direct supervision and practicing with a coach present is a must. Injuries often occur when cheerleaders are not being properly supervised or begin attempting skills without following the correct progression.

Follow these safety tips, recommended by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA), to help keep your cheerleaders safe:

  • Required safety training for all coaches, including Sports First Aid, CPR and AED training.
  • Access to certified athletic trainers to assist with injury prevention and emergency procedures.
  • Adherence to recognized safety rules such as the AACCA, NFHS or U.S. All-Star Federation Rules.
  • Regulation by state school athletics/activities associations to require adherence to rules and safety training regardless of whether cheerleading is designated as a “sport” or “activity.”
  • Recognition by coaches, cheerleaders and parents that the use of skill progressions and the demonstrated ability to safely perform basic skills before advancing is the key […]
By |March 23rd, 2015|Safety

Fueling for a Safe Cheerleading Performance

By Karen M. Lew, MEd., ATC, LAT

Are you or your team preparing for competition season?  As you begin the preparation, be sure to include a plan for appropriate nutrition.  The nutritional habits of a cheerleader can make or break their performance.  Nutrition and strength and conditioning work together to help the athlete become well rounded.  In today’s society, eating appropriately is difficult but I refer to the body as a brand new car.  When you purchase a brand new car that requires high octane gas, you will not put diesel in it.  It is the same thing for an athlete preparing for a competition or performance.  The optimal diet would be to eliminate any fast food, foods that are high in fat, junk food, or food that does not offer nutritious value.  The best philosophy to use is moderation and regardless of your situation and surroundings, it is making wise decisions that make a difference.

Athletes are often busy and on the run.  Just as you plan out practices, strength and conditioning, I encourage all athletes to plan out their diet in advance.  Optimizing athletic performance using proper nutrition is essential.  According to Tavis Piatoly, RD, nutrition can be an athlete’s secret weapon by following four simple tips:

  • Develop a habit of eating frequently and planning out snacks and meals.
  • The slogan “Breakfast of Champions” is not a joke; breakfast is the basis of your day and the fuel you need to get your day started. Make time for a healthy breakfast, since your body has typically been without food for 10 or more hours and needs some energy to get going.  If you skip breakfast, it increases your chances of overeating later in the day. Planning […]
By |March 17th, 2015|Safety

Building on Balance: Ankle Stability

Ankle stability is important for all athletes, especially top girls. To be able to stand with one foot on the ground is one thing. But to be able to hold a stunt in the air by a partner/partners takes balancing to a whole new level. Building up the neuromuscular strength in your ankle is key.

Start by taking these small steps to improve single leg balance. You can start by standing on one leg while brushing your teeth or hair. Brushing your teeth and hair is something we all do at least once or twice a day and will also not take any more time out of your day. Try holding for 15-20 seconds, building on this simple balance task. Once you have mastered it the next step would be to balance on one leg while standing on a folded towel or pillow, creating an uneven surface. Once that step is mastered, try balancing with your eyes closed, on solid ground first. Then moving to an uneven surface with eyes closed. But always remember safety first if you ever feel like you are going to fall, stop, open your eyes, put your opposite foot down and regain control of your balance.

As we all know a goal of a top girl is to be able to do a series of stunts while in the air. There are a few ways to take balancing to the next level:

• Single leg ball pick ups- this helps if you have a prop like a small ball, pen or 5lb weight to pick up off the ground. To start stand on one foot, with prop slightly in front of you on the ground. You are going to bend at the hips […]

By |March 10th, 2015|Safety

NFHS Releases Cheerleading Rules for 2014-2015

Summer is at its midpoint, and most cheerleading coaches are either prepping for camp or reviewing their materials from a recent camp. Cheer camps offer a fresh start for newly formed teams, as new teammates and veteran squad members learn and perfect skills and sidelines. At most camps, attendees attend a Safety Awareness course, which emphasizes the importance of cheerleading safety and adherence to all safety rules.

It’s also the perfect time for school cheerleading coaches and administrators to order their copies of the National Federation of State High School Associations 2014-2015 Spirit Rules Book which has just been released. The rules book, which can be ordered online, outlines the new cheerleading rules for 2014, addressing everything from transitions to partner stunts and dismounts. In addition to the most up to date rules, coaches will find passages on Education, Minimizing Risk, Concussions, and Overuse Injuries.

Order yours: http://nfhs.com/p-847-2014-15-spirit-rules-book.aspx

The NFHS website also offers information on how to keep cheerleaders safe, including a number of training and education resources. Online resources include the NFHS Coach Education courses, Cheer and Dance: Fundamentals of Coaching Cheer and Dance and AACCA Spirit Safety Certification, available at www.nfhslearn.com.

The NFHS is part of a coalition of national, regional and state organizations that are committed to improving cheerleading safety by increasing awareness throughout the extended cheerleading community.

 

 

By |July 3rd, 2014|Safety

USA Cheer Participates in White House’s Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit

Memphis, Tenn., May 29, 2014 – USA Cheer President Bill Seely participated in today’s Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, joining President Obama to discuss sports safety and concussions. The event featured young athletes, parents and coaches, as well as professional sports stars and military service members convening to discuss ways to prevent and treat concussions and encourage research into sports-related head injuries.

“USA Cheer is proud to join with the White House and leading sports stakeholders to build a blueprint to make sports safe for young athletes across the country. We applaud President Obama’s commitment to help ensure that children continue to be active and play sports safely,” Seely said.

The cheerleading community’s efforts, led by USA Cheer, have contributed to a documented decrease in catastrophic injuries among cheerleading athletes. One such change, the removal of a dismount known as the “double down,” reversed a trend of increasing concussion rates. Currently, the cheerleading concussion rate is 42% lower than the overall concussion rate of all sports.

As part of the summit, the White House announced new steps by both the private and public sectors to inform the public on prevention and treatment of concussions.

“Today’s event provides the sports community with a great opportunity to come together and participate in a national conversation that impacts the lives of all athletes. We’re happy to be a part of the dialogue and continue our commitment to making cheerleading as safe as possible,” said Bill Seely.

USA Cheer has made great strides over the last several years in significantly reducing injuries, making it one of the safest athletic activities for young people. The organization works to educate parents, cheerleaders and coaches on cheerleading safety at every level.

USA Cheer is also releasing its […]

By |May 29th, 2014|Safety

2014-15 Spirit Rules Focus on Minimizing Risk For Cheer Safety

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Spirit Rules Committee adjusted several rules with the goal of minimizing risk and increasing creativity during its March 8-10 meeting in Indianapolis. The recommended rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.

The committee approved the conditions for performing an inverted stunt during partner stunts and pyramids. According to Rule 2-5-2, the base person must keep contact with the top person enough to stabilize the top person. An exception to this is that an inverted top person in a handstand on the ground can be released to a loading person below shoulder height.

In addition, according to Rule 2-5-2b, inverted partner stunts must begin and end below an extended position and can be performed by passing through an extended position without pausing or stopping. Previously, the base person was not allowed to extend arms to perform an inverted stunt.

“Inversions have become a common element in cheerleading. The changes to Rule 2-5-2 will reduce confusion among coaches, interpreters and judges,” said Kent Summers, NFHS director of performing arts and sports and liaison to the Spirit Rules Committee. “The committee wants to promote better technique in performing and teaching the stunts, which can allow greater creativity without adding undue risk to participants.”

The information included in Rule 2-5-3, involving suspended rolls, was incorporated into Article 2 and will follow the same rules as other inverted partner stunts. To reduce the risk to performers, single-based suspended rolls require a spotter to aid in the transfer of the top person. Now, the new catcher must be in place and not involved in any other skill when the suspended roll is initiated.

Another rule change approved by the committee restricts an […]

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