Why have we seen such a rise in cheerleading injuries?
According to the current research, cheerleading has the fifth lowest rate of injuries compared to 21 other sports.* The average concussion rate for all high school sports is 3.8 per 10,000 athlete exposures; the concussion rates for cheerleading are 43 percent less at a rate of 2.2 per 10,000 athlete exposures. In addition, emergency room visits for cheerleading are lower than girls’ basketball, soccer, and softball. Of these visits, 98 percent are treated and released.
This does not mean we are not concerned about injuries. The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators, along with its partners in cheerleading safety including USA Cheer, has worked for years to modify safety rules for the express purpose of reducing the risk of injuries. Cheerleading has seen a dramatic reduction in catastrophic injuries since new regulations were instituted ten years ago. Those regulations included surface restrictions, prohibiting certain skills like double downs, and requiring additional spotters.
How do you recommend cheerleading coaches be trained to ensure safety?
All cheerleading teams should be coached by a professional who is credentialed through the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA). Campus cheerleading programs should follow recognized and proven standards with regard to safety program development and implementation.
The AACCA Cheerleading Safety Manual was developed and continues to be reviewed and updated periodically to help coaches understand their responsibilities with regard to safety programming. The AACCA Cheerleading Safety Manual focuses on the areas of Safety Awareness and Legal Responsibility, Medical Responsibilities, Environmental Safety Factors, Spotting, Performer Readiness, and Skill Progression. Each of these areas is vital to the safe practice of cheerleading and should be implemented in the proper way for each unique program.
How do you enforce these safety measures within the schools where cheerleading coaches oversee their teams?
Cheerleading is regulated on all levels to ensure it is practiced and performed safely in gyms, high schools, and colleges throughout the country.
The NCAA and college conferences require that college cheerleading programs follow the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators’ rules at their events, which restrict what skills can be performed. The NCAA requires that cheer programs are under the direct supervision of someone who has completed a national cheerleading safety course.
High school cheer programs are governed by their state associations, just like football, volleyball, and other sports and follow the AACCA or NFHS rules. More spirit coaches than any other coaches have taken the AACCA Certification Course on NFHS.org. Nearly 5,000 coaches took the course in 2015, a higher amount than other sports.
All-Star cheerleading (non-school) is governed by the US All Star Federation, which has a coaches credentialing program and varying competition levels to provide a progressive safety environment.
USA Cheer represents all forms of cheerleading in the United States and advocates for all cheerleaders to receive the tools they need to succeed, including proper equipment, trained instructors, and medical resources.