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Youth Cheerleading Injuries

Cheerleader sitting on the gym floorCheerleading is more popular and more athletic than ever.

Cheerleaders not only lead a crowd in cheers, but also perform increasingly difficult:

  • Dance routines
  • Tumbling skills
  • Pyramids
  • Stunts with partners

Although cheerleading generally is not a risky sport, the injuries that do occur can be severe. Cheerleaders must be healthy and strong to ensure their own safety and the safety of others on their squads.

Common Cheerleading Injuries

Common cheerleading injuries include:

Among the more serious, sometimes season-ending, injuries are:

  • Fractures, including those of the spine
  • Dislocations of the shoulder or elbow

Causes of Cheerleading Injuries

  • Performing skills too difficult for the cheerleader’s current level
  • Poor conditioning or training
  • Poor nutrition
  • Lack of proper equipment for training or performance
  • Lack of experience with the sport or a particular skill
  • Poor flexibility
  • Lack of good core and abdominal strength
  • Lack of good arm and shoulder strength

Overuse Injuries in Cheerleading

Cheerleading is a year-round sport, with games and competitions during every season. Cheerleaders often cheer for three seasons and then may take part in competitions.

Continuous training and performances increase the chance of overuse injuries.

Any young athlete that experiences pain or soreness for more than 48 hours, should be evaluated by a medical professional.

The experts at UPMC Sports Medicine’s Young Athlete Program can work with your pediatrician to evaluate and aggressively treat your young cheerleader's injury to help prevent more serious long-term effects.

Preventing Cheerleading Injuries

Proper warm ups and stretches

Good warm-ups and conditioning are just as important in cheerleading as in every other sport.

Practice should begin with a light cardiovascular warm up, followed by proper stretching of the:

  • Shoulders
  • Wrists
  • Thigh and hip muscles

This will help provide flexibility for tumbling skills and stunts.

Good technique

Another way to decrease injuries is to make sure the cheerleader has learned the proper technique for basic skills before trying more difficult ones.

Without a good foundation in the basics, performing higher level tumbling and stunts not only is more difficult, but also unsafe.

When learning new skills, cheerleaders should:

  • Practice in an area that has enough space, away from potential dangers such as walls, pillars, or crowds.
  • Always use gymnastic mats to ensure a softer landing from a fall or drop during a stunt.
  • Use extra spotters.

Different surfaces

Cheerleaders perform on different surfaces, including:

  • Football fields
  • Running tracks
  • Gymnasium floors
  • Foam floors

Each surface has a different amount of cushioning and degree of levelness. Tumbling and stunts should be practiced on every surface.

In addition, when moving from outdoor football season to indoor basketball season, it’s best to decrease the intensity of the training. This allows the body to adjust to the firmer, less forgiving surface of the basketball court.

Any time a switch is made from one surface to another, adjustments to the intensity of practice will reduce the chance of injuries.

Cheerleading Safety

The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA) offers a safety education program for cheerleading coaches and athletes.

The AACCA also has enacted rules limiting:

  • The height of pyramids
  • The number of bases needed to perform stunts
  • Surface requirements for tumbling, basket tosses, and throws

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The Young Athlete Program

UPMC Sports Medicine’s Young Athlete Program provides individualized attention for injury prevention and management. Regardless of age or sport, we have the expertise, technology, and services to make a difference for your young athlete.

Call 1-855-93-SPORT (77678) for more information or to make an appointment.

Physical Therapy

Our partner, UPMC Centers for Rehab Services, offers your young athlete physical therapy at more than 50 locations throughout western Pa.

Call 1-888-723-4CRS (4277) to find an office near you or to make an appointment.

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