Did you know that March is National Cheerleading Safety Month? Under the auspices of CheerSafe, a coalition of national, regional and state organizations, March is dedicated to spreading the word about cheerleading safety issues throughout the cheerleading community. This community includes the cheerleaders, their coaches and parents.

How Cheerleading Has Evolved

Cheerleading has changed a lot since I was in high school. It’s become very competitive and cheerleading competitions feature many stunning gymnastics feats. The National High School Cheerleading Championship (NHSCC) is the highlight of the competition year and is televised on ESPN and ESPN2. All of this is very exciting for both the cheerleaders and the spectators. Unfortunately, however, all this spectacular cheerleading comes at the price of cheerleading injuries.

Cheerleading Ranks High for Injuries

Did you know that cheerleading comes first with respect to sports injuries to high-school girls, and is only outranked by football when boys are also considered? One study found that 65.2 percent of all catastrophic injuries in youth sports is attributable to cheerleading. And, worse, many schools only regard cheerleading as an “activity” rather than a sport. This makes a big difference to the kind of insurance schools carry to help pay for injuries incurred during school-sponsored sports.

What Kinds of Injuries do Cheerleaders Suffer From?

The worst injuries in cheerleading involve the back, neck, and head, but lower legs, ankles, and feet are also at risk. Here’s a list of some common foot and ankle injuries suffered by cheerleaders:

  • Traumatic Injuries: ankle fractures and sprains; fractures of foot bones, including toe and heel fractures.
  • Overuse Injuries: stress fractures; shin splints; tendon injuries, calf muscle strains; blisters.

How Can I Protect My Cheerleading Team?

Obviously, all cheerleaders need to practice, but it’s important not to cause injuries to your team members by doing too much practice. Injuries are more likely to happen because of tiredness or overuse of body parts. If you are a coach, make sure each team member knows exactly what she is doing each step of the way, and don’t move on to the next move until the previous one is as near perfect as possible. Here are some other ways to protect your team from injuries:

  • Practice on the Right Surface – Make sure your team practices on a surface with some give to it. Hard surfaces obviously make falling more hazardous, but they also provide legs, ankles, and feet with an unforgiving pounding.
  • Do Exercises – Include foot and ankle-strengthening exercises in your team’s warm-up routine.
  • Check Your Team’s Shoes – Make sure everyone has the right footwear and that it fits them properly. Your team should practice in the same shoes they will wear during an actual performance. Wearing different shoes on a cheerleading night is asking for trouble.
  • Look for Problems – Encourage team members to come to you with any kind of physical problem. You don’t want them keeping quiet because they feel they might let the team down. They may have foot and ankle issues that can be remedied with arch supports, orthotics, or some other kind of foot support. Ideally, work with parents and podiatrists to fix any problems and avoid injuries down the road.

Cheer on Your Cheerleaders and Keep Them Safe

At Rocky Mountain Foot and Ankle we specialize in sports injuries. We have young relatives who are cheerleaders, so we recognize cheerleading as a competitive sport. If you are the parent of a cheerleader or you coach a cheerleading team, we can help you with any cheerleading-related foot or ankle injury. Contact us today and arrange for an appointment.