Cheerleading can enhance your child’s school spirit and provide plenty of exercise, but is it too dangerous?
Your child is bursting with enthusiasm with plans to try out for the school cheerleading squad. You want her to be happy, but you’ve heard some scary stories about cheerleading injuries. How can you make sure she won’t break a bone, get kicked in the head or fall from a pyramid?
If you decide to let your child get involved in cheerleading, do some homework. Talk to the coaching staff to find out if the program is safe. You can also teach your child some important rules that will help her avoid injury.
Is the program safe?
Cheerleading can be good for your child in many ways. Extracurricular activity helps children learn leadership skills, build self-esteem and get valuable physical activity. It fosters teamwork and school spirit and is likely to boost your child’s grades.
There are some risks you will also need to consider, though. About two thirds of injuries to female high school athletes are related to cheerleading. Each year, about 25,000 children are seen in hospital emergency rooms for such injuries. Most of these are concussions, lacerations and internal injuries that occur to the head, neck and face.
If your child wants to cheer, talk to the director of the cheerleading program. A “yes” answer to each of the following questions can help ease your mind about the school’s safety practices:
- Is the program run by qualified coaches who are trained in gymnastics?
- Is each cheerleader required to sign a safety contract?
- Are all practice sessions supervised by a coach?
- Are children trained in spotting?
- Is the practice facility equipped with the proper mats?
- Are emergency procedures in place and available in writing?
- Do all coaches have safety certification?
Your child’s responsibilities
Once you’ve determined that the program is safe, let your child know that he, too, needs to take a role in ensuring his safety. Teach him the following safety measures:
- Tell the coach if a stunt is beyond his comfort level.
- Warm up before each practice.
- Practice only on mats.
- Don’t do a stunt unless the coach is present.
- Use spotters every time he performs a stunt.
Make sure that your child has a pre-sports physical before joining the cheerleading squad. If she’s never taken gymnastics classes, sign her up. Along with developing your child’s skills, a gymnastics instructor can teach your child how to stay safe while performing.
If you find that your child’s cheering instructors aren’t following the proper safety precautions, talk to a school administrator. If that doesn’t help, you may need to switch your child to a different activity.