Who Says Cheer isn’t a Sport?
“Athletes lift weights, but cheerleaders lift athletes.” It is a common saying among cheerleaders whose ability to throw people fifteen feet in the air is often under acknowledged. In fact, only 29 states in the U.S. recognize cheerleading as a sport. With cheerleading injuries more than quadrupling since 1980, doctors and parents have grown concerned about how safety is being regulated.
Pediatricians argue that if cheerleading were to be nationally designated as a sport, it would be subject to higher safety guidelines.
Preventing Injuries in Schools
Some safety standards for high school sports are optional -and sometimes unavailable- to High School Cheerleading. This includes requiring sports physicals, capping the amount of practice time, requiring athletic strength training, and (shockingly) requiring a qualified athletic trainer to supervise the team.
On average, the severity of injuries in cheerleading is substantially greater than injuries in girls’ sports. Preventative measures should be taken both before and during the execution of the routine to help reduce risks. Responsible coaches ensure that their team is:
- Stretching before and after the routine
- Ensuring that every person understands their position
- Being prepared if a team member is absent
- Keeping aware of the space available for different movements
Though cheerleading regulations are not yet subjected to the same strict guidelines as traditional sports, good coaches will make the safety of the participants a top priority.
Coaches Should be Looking for Signs of Concussions
Like any sport, cheerleading comes with inherent risks. While coaches hope to reduce injuries, it would be impossible to prevent them. Adults should be prepared to react when accidents do happen. High schoolers tend to think they’re invincible, so adults should be on the lookout for athletes who try to “walk it off” when they are injured. This is especially true when there is a possibility of concussion—which can often be difficult to detect. Concussions account for 6% of cheer-related injuries.
Research has concluded that more of the concussions occur for the athletes performing as a base or spotter, that is, the cheerleaders who are not being tossed into the air—often occurring when a flier inadvertently kicks or lands on another team member on the way down. Untreated, concussions can be life threatening. Coaches should be on the lookout for:
- Loss of memory
- Becoming unsure of the routine
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Moving slowly or more clumsily
- Having a dazed appearance
- Changes in behavior
It is not uncommon for young athletes, especially at the high school level, to try to hide their symptoms in an attempt to get back into the routine. When parents trust coaches with their child’s well-being, it is the coach’s responsibility to ensure that the athletes’ safety is of the utmost importance.
When Cheer Injuries Occur
Cheerleaders are performing much more complex routines than in the days of pom-poms and high kicks. Unfortunately regulations have not yet adjusted to compensate these higher risk activities, and injuries are on the rise. Check with your state’s athletic association to see which safety requirements your child’s cheer team follows.
The personal injury lawyers at Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers want to keep your young athletes safe. Until the sport is recognized for what it is, it is possible for St. Louis high schools and teams to let safety measures slip. Make sure your child’s coaches are knowledgeable about athletic safety and are following the proper protocols when cheerleading injuries do happen.