Cheerleading is fun, but injuries are possible. Figures from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reveal that cheerleading injuries account for around 16,000 emergency room visits each year. Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce the risks while enjoying your favorite sport. Follow these steps to prevent injuries and stay safe while cheerleading.
Wear the Right Clothing
Proper cheerleading clothing is designed to ensure your comfort and safety during practices and competitions. It helps you to stretch and move without restriction, and allows your coach to observe your body alignment and positioning while you are practicing and performing. It is also important to wear appropriate footwear when cheerleading. The correct shoes can offer support to your foot and ankle, helping to prevent injuries. Remember to replace your cheerleading shoes every six to eight months for proper support and fewer injuries.
Warm Up and Stretch
Warming up and stretching helps to warm up your muscles, making them less likely to tear or strain. A proper warm up session should last at least five to ten minutes and involve gently exercising and stretching your muscles to prepare them for cheer. Remember to start your warm up slowly and build it up gradually until you break a light sweat. When you’ve warmed up, perform some gentle stretches to lengthen your tendons and muscles. Pay particular attention to stretching the muscles you use most during cheer.
Dehydration can have an effect on how you feel and perform, and may increase your risk for injuries. Make hydration a habit by keeping a bottle of fluid with you at all times and scheduling regular breaks to rehydrate. Water is the best choice of fluid for keeping your body hydrated, but fitness waters and sports drinks in moderation are good choices too.
Listen to Your Body
Overuse injuries occur over time, usually from practicing too much or practicing incorrectly. Listening to your body and being aware of the signs can help you avoid injuries due to cheer. Early signs of overuse injuries include pain, swelling and stiffness in the affected body part. Be sure to let your coach know if you’re uncomfortable or in pain. You may need to take a break from cheer to give your body a chance to rest and recover fully. When you return to cheer, pay special attention to proper technique to avoid future injuries.
Practice Proper Form
Practicing proper form while performing motions, jumps, stunts and tumbles is crucial to squad uniformity and injury prevention. Develop good technique by taking the time to perfect lower level skills before attempting higher and more advanced skills. If you have a safety concern about a skill you are practicing, be sure to talk with your coach. Performing a skill before you are ready increases the risk of injuries to yourself and others.
Cool Down and Stretch
Cooling down and stretching after cheer is just as important as warming up and stretching before cheer. Perform cool down exercises at a slow to moderate pace to slow your heart rate and relax your muscles. Be sure to finish with some gentle stretches to help reduce muscle soreness.
Protecting against cheerleading injuries doesn’t have to be a challenge. By taking some basic precautions, you can significantly reduce your risk.