It’s hard for parents to say no to their kids when they want to become a cheerleader. The problem is – not everyone should be a cheerleader for various reasons. This sport has changed drastically over the last two decades, and today you have to be a strong athlete with a strong core, and be willing to practice, practice, and practice some more. It takes commitment to become part of a squad, and once you are, focus on how to avoid common cheerleading injuries.
Stay ahead of cheerleading injuries with expert care from Atlantic Pediatric Orthopedics. Our experienced surgeons in Edison and Shrewsbury, NJ, specialize in pediatric orthopedics. Call our orthopedic clinic at (732) 544-9000 and let us support their passion for cheerleading with top-notch orthopedic care.
For the few readers old enough to remember dancer Ginger Rogers, she had a famous quote that she did everything her partner Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.
Cheerleaders catch teammates, then get thrown up into pyramids, do acrobatic movements with precision, and must do it all with a smile. Not exactly the same, but you get the point. It’s not easy.
Cheerleading is hard work and sometimes it goes on twelve months out of the year without a break from the athleticism. With constant practice, overuse injuries are rampant and strength is paramount.
Common Cheerleading Injuries and Causes
Cheerleading today is much more than shouting through a bullhorn on the sidelines of a game. It involves gymnastics, stunts, pyramids, and sending a partner 20 feet in the air. With all that, injuries are inevitable.
The most common type injuries include:
- Muscle strains in the lower back, leg, and hip
- Knee stress
- Sprained ankles
- Torn ligaments
- Finger and hand injuries from improper landings
- Shoulder dislocations
- Concussions and head injuries
See Atlantic Pediatric Orthopedics in Edison, NJ if your child has any of these common cheerleading injuries.
Doing stunts causes the most serious injuries, and it accounts for 42 to 60% of all injuries. 96% of concussions and head injuries in cheerleading are also due to stunts.
Poor conditioning and training, lack of flexibility, performing skills too difficult for the cheerleader’s current level, lack of a strong core and abdominal strength, and lack of arm and shoulder strength all contribute to injuries.
Ways to Avoid Common Cheerleading Injuries
There are some simple steps to prevent injury, and they should be part of a cheerleader’s regular schedule as well as part of a squad’s program.
- Practice proper training and conditioning with essential cardiovascular exercises like jogging to help with endurance.
- Cross training is a way to prevent overuse injuries. Try biking, swimming, dancing, or kickboxing.
- Stretching before practice is non-negotiable. Target quadriceps and hamstrings before both practices and performances.
- Targeted stretches like a runner’s stretch against the wall with heels down will stretch the calf.
- Practice on different surfaces like football fields, running tracks, gym floors, and foam. When you switch from one surface to another, always make adjustments to the intensity of your practice.
- Static stretching to focus on a straddle position, split position, and herkie position on the floor will help with flexibility. In addition, rounding your spine while in these static positions will stretch back muscles.
- Balance training on even surfaces and then moving to uneven surfaces with or without your eyes closed will improve balance. Yoga and tai chi on one leg will improve single leg balance.
- Trained coaches should be another non-negotiable.
- Always use mats during practice.
- Increase the number of spotters during aerial stunts.
Just as athletes need rest, so do cheerleading athletes. Get enough rest to remain strong.