Coaches Training, Rules Changes and Partnerships Have Contributed to Success of Safety Efforts
USA Cheer, the governing body for cheerleading in the U.S., has been a driving force in promoting best practices for cheer safety. A recent report from the journal Pediatrics, a publication by The American Academy of Pediatrics, has shown that cheerleading has the 5th best safety record out of 22 high school sports studied.
The most recent data, from the Department of Epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health, studied 22 high school sports using data from the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study from 2009/2010 to 2013/2014. It is the first study to include cheerleading injuries in a side-by-side comparison to high school sports. The findings ranked cheerleading 18th out of 22 sports in terms of overall injury rates. The study found that while concussions were the most common cheerleading injury, cheerleading’s concussion rates were lower than all other sports combined (2.21 per 10,000 athletic-exposures vs. 3.78).
“We are encouraged that the work we’ve done to date has helped keep cheerleading safe, but we must remain ever vigilant in this effort. That is why we have taken a 360 degree approach that includes all stakeholders in cheerleading safety, from the athletes, coaches, parents, administrators, medical community and media,” says Bill Seely, President of USA Cheer. “Everyone has a role to play and we will continue to do our best to make this one of the safest and most positive sports for young people to participate in.”
“It’s gratifying to see what we’ve believed all along – that cheerleading is a safe, athletic activity for many young people,” says Dr. Jeff Dugas, co-founder of Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham, Ala. and member of the USA Cheer Safety Council. “This report highlights some areas for improvement, which we can tackle as a community. We have seen steady progress, and know that with an emphasis on safety training and awareness, and proper skill progressions, we can effect even more positive change.”
Recent efforts on behalf of cheerleading safety have included:
- Elimination of Double Downs, a twisting dismount, in 2012 at the high school level
- Creation of the USA Cheer Safety Council comprised of orthopedic surgeons, athletic trainers, coaches and athletes
- More than 4,700 cheerleading coaches per year taking the NFHS Spirit Rules course, the highest number of any other high school sport
- Cheersafe.org, a community wide resource for cheerleading safety, was launched in 2013 as a way to share current cheerleading research and data
- Partnerships with NFHS, AACCA, NCAA, CDC, NATA and groups like Varsity Spirit, who mandates a safety awareness class for more than 325,000 cheerleaders and 20,000 coaches at annual cheerleading camps
Jim Lord, Executive Director for the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA) and member of the USA Cheer Safety Council, said that “while we are glad to have a study that finally compares apples to apples, and it shows that the risk of injury is lower for cheerleading, there are still areas where the data shows we can improve.” According to Lord, the number and source of concussions shown in the study, and the time lost associated with them, should serve as a reminder to coaches and cheerleaders to increase their focus on safety procedures such as proper spotting and the use of skill progressions.