March has been designated as National Cheerleading Safety Month, which gives us the opportunity to promote cheerleader safety and ensure that cheer programs follow safety rules. It also affords us an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the Savannah State University cheerleading team that won the Cheersport Nationals in the Level 4 division, open 4 category. The victory marks the first time that a historically Black College and University has won a national Cheersport event.
History Of National Cheerleading Safety Month
The U.S. House of Representatives created National Cheerleading Safety Month on March 26, 2015. The resolution also cited the successes of efforts to reduce cheerleading injuries and recognized the achievements of USA Cheer, the United States All Star Federation for Cheer and Dance Teams (USASF), the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA), and CheerSafe, the online source for safety information, cheerleading rules and regulation updates. CheerSafe sponsors the event.
The resolution also acknowledges that the previously named organizations have been successful in reducing the number of injuries sustained by cheerleaders each year.
Due to the popularity of football, baseball, hockey, and other sports, most people do not know that cheerleading is a dangerous sport. According to the 25th Annual Report From the National Center for Catastrophic Injury, more than half of calamitous injuries in all of female sports occur in cheerleading. Most major injuries are the result of falls on hard surfaces including gym floors. Injuries are due to direct hits on the neck, head, shoulder, face, or other body parts.
Moreover, studies show that surfaces including grass, artificial turf, and rubberized track are no safer than wood floors. The best surfaces on which cheerleading should be taking place are on spring-loaded floors or foam mats.
The purpose of National Cheerleading Safety Month is to educate parents, cheerleaders, and administrators to cheerleading safety in all venues that the activity occurs including schools, colleges, and all-star events.
According to USA Cheer, since 2006 there has been a downward trend of injuries in cheerleading.
Yearly participants in National Cheerleading Safety Month include the National Federation of State High School Associations, the National Athletic Trainers Association, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and leaders in the cheerleading community including Varsity Spirit and Champion Cheerleading, and cheerleading media partners American Cheerleader and Inside Cheerleading magazines.
The successful efforts to promote safety in cheerleading have been dramatic. For example:
• Cheerleading has the 17th lowest overall injury rate out of 20 high school sports.
• Cheerleading is lower than several female sports in emergency room visits, lower than girls’ basketball, soccer and softball.
• In two studies, cheerleading has the lowest rate of concussions compared to more than 10 high school sports.
• Cheerleading organizations have been flexible about changing rules to ensure safety. For example, when data indicated that head injuries were on the rise for high school cheerleading, the AACCA and the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) banned the double twist dismount to reduce the risk of catastrophic injury.
Resources For Safety Practices
USA Cheer and the AACCA are resources for safe practice information in cheerleading. They have created a number of publications to help certified coaches and instructors as well as parents; actual cheerleaders and the medical profession deal with and minimize the possibility of injuries. In addition, the AACCA offers emergency plans that can be downloaded from its website.
The AACCA also has guidelines to follow should a cheerleader suffer a concussion.
Cheerleading And Lawsuits
According to the Journal Pediatrics, 22,900 children under the age of 18 were admitted to hospitals for cheerleading injuries in a recent year. Of these injuries, 52 percent were sprains or strains, 18 percent were soft tissue injuries, 16 percent were fractures or dislocations and nearly 4 percent were concussions and other brain trauma.
Lawsuits in the case of injury do occur. Although the courts have determined that a cheerleader cannot sue fellow cheerleaders for injuries suffered during a poorly performed routine, lawsuits can occur if cheerleading injuries happen due to negligent training or coaching, improper or faulty equipment, or inadequate post-accident medical care.
Although it is true that lawsuits resulting from cheerleading injuries are a relatively unsettled area of the law, it is still possible that a person who suffers an injury while cheerleading may be able to seek legal relief.