Cheerleading is definitely a sport and is closely associated to many other sports. It is a strenuous physical activity that combines acrobatics and gymnastic moves, which stresses the body.
There was a sad incident that happened to a cheerleader in March, 2006. A young girl named Kristi Yamaoka, a student of Southern Illinois University, had a near-fatal fall from atop a human pyramid and sustained multiple vertebral fractures and internal damage in major organs. Fortunately, Kristi had a good recovery; it was a relief for everyone whose attention was focused on her during her treatment.
65% OF THE INJURIES SUSTAINED BY ALL FEMALE STUDENTS ARE INFLICTED DURING CHEERLEADING ACROBATICS.
Cheerleading involves potentially dangerous performances that are akin to stunts, i.e. forming multi-level human pyramids, somersaults, etc. Hence, the chances of injuring joints, bones, skin, etc. are very high, and Kristi’s incident shows that internal organs can suffer damage as well. Head, neck, vertebra, disk, and lower body injuries are all quite common in cheerleading.
HOW TO PREVENT CHEERLEADING INJURIES
For school age cheerleaders and sports players, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new guidelines to prevent cheerleading injuries. Now, coaches, school authorities, cheerleaders, and their parents, as well as youthful players must adhere to these guidelines. Below are the main preventive measures suggested by AAP.
- Cheerleaders must be provided with qualified coaches and medical staff.
- They must undergo pre-season physical and stamina building exercises conducted by qualified staff.
- Stunts and pyramids must be formed on a soft floor like foam, spring or grass.
- Pyramids must not be formed more than two floor levels, i.e. over two persons’ height.
- If any cheerleader is exposed to an injury, he or she can only be allowed back into the cheerleading activity with a clearance certificate from a medical expert.
There are specific and detailed guidelines for pyramid formations: the base supporter should stand still in direct contact with the floor, and the suspended cheerleaders should never rotate, invert or dismount from their positions carelessly. Similarly, when a cheerleader is tossed up in the air (flyer), at least four players should be attending to the flyer. The flyer is advised not to drop his/her head lower than the horizontal plane with his/her torso.
Overall, it is important to follow proper technique and focus on prevention. You must bear in mind that these and other preventative measures should never be ignored as they are meant to protect you from many negative effects. So, follow appropriate protocol and protect yourself.