AAP Issues Safety Guidelines for Cheerleading
< Oct. 24, 2012 > -- The number of injuries from cheerleading has increased steadily over the last 20 years, a trend that has prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to urge that the activity be designated a sport.
In new guidelines issued online this week in the journal Pediatrics, the AAP points out that cheerleading has become a year-round activity with complex acrobatic stunts and pyramid structures, often done on unforgiving surfaces.
And those daring feats have led to a rise in injuries. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says that in 1980, nearly 5,000 visits to the emergency department were because of cheerleading injuries. By 2007, that total had reached nearly 27,000.
"Although the overall risk of injury is lower in cheerleading than in most other sports, the risk of direct catastrophic injury is considerably higher for cheerleading," the AAP report says. "From 1982 to 2009, cheerleading accounted for 65.0 percent of all direct catastrophic injuries to girl athletes at the high school level and 70.8 percent at the college level."
The most common types of cheerleading injuries are sprains and strains to the legs and feet, followed by head and neck injuries.
The most serious injuries happen to cheerleaders who are positioned at or above the "critical height" for the surface the students are performing on. The critical height for a landing mat on a foam floor, for instance, is 11 feet, but only 4.5 feet for a wooden gym floor.
In addition to harder surfaces, other factors that raise the risk for injury include a previous injury, a higher body mass index, and performing stunts. Another factor is being supervised by a coach who has had little training or experience with cheerleading.
The AAP guidelines recommend that:
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Tips for Preventing Sports Injuries
Although not all sports injuries can be prevented, these tips from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases can reduce your child's risk for harm:
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.
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