National Cheerleading Safety Month
By Aliza Stahl
They flip, they lift, they fly. When you think of sports injuries, full contact sports like football probably come to mind. However, cheerleading can also cause many injuries.
Kayla Bays is a third-year student and cheerleader at the University of Findlay. She started cheering in the third grade. Bays’ main role on the cheer team is a flier and base.
“Cheer in general can be a dangerous sport because you are lifting girls, human beings, into the air, and there is that risk that something can fail, or someone can fall,” Bays said.
Kinzey Hickman, Assistant Athletic Trainer for the football, women’s basketball, and cheerleading team at the University of Findlay says that the coaches on the cheer team are the ones mainly in charge of the safety procedures, but there are groups such as the National Council for Spirit Safety and Education and American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators who also play a role.
“Sometimes we have girls who join the team that have no stunting experience, so we usually start with more basic stunts, and were not allow to move onto more difficult skills until we have had solid stunts at the basic level,” Bays said.
Hickman described some injuries that occur due to cheer. The most common is ankle, mainly from tumbling and stunting. The second most common is head injuries, such as concussions, due to mainly stunting. Then neck and knee are the next most common because of tumbling and stunting.
The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury says that the number of injuries in cheerleading has dropped significantly since 2010.
USACheer.org stats “In 2019-2020 there were zero reported catastrophic injuries in cheerleading, and three reported in the past 5 years. In fact, the number of catastrophic injuries from cheerleading over the past 5 years are similar to other girls’ high school sports and are lower than those for football, baseball, wrestling, girls’ soccer and girls’ track & field.”
Eryka Smith is a first-year student at the University of Findlay, although she is not on the cheer team at UF, she has 10 years under her belt.
Smith cheers for Top Notch, located in Fremont. Her role on the team is point on jumps (the person who is right in front) and a flier. She described a major injury she received at 14 yearsold, when she was still a base. During a routine, the flier came falling and landed on Smith, causing her to tear her sternum in half.
Both Bays and Smith commented on having back issues, that will last forever, due to cheerleading.
Hickman stated that there the rates for injury are higher in high school over All Star and college cheerleading. At UF, the cheer team only cheers during football and basketball games, but not in competition. Hickman explained how there are regulations stating how cheerleaders are not allowed to do some things on the sidelines without a mat.
According to the 2019-2020 Cheer College Safety Rules, at games, cheerleaders are not allowed to do basket tosses, flipping skills into or from stunts, tosses, or pyramids, and more. It also goes into at football games, the cheerleaders are allowed to do kick double baskets and baskets that flip and twist, but only during pre-game or halftime.
Bays also described a safety procedure they do while in practice.
“Usually when we do stunts, we only do one group at a time, so the rest of the team can support the group, so if there were to be a fall, we would all be there to support and catch if needed” Bays said.
Hickman thinks the University of Findlay, the cheer team, coaches, and everyone else associated within the program does their best to assure the safety of their athletes.
“When you step onto that mat, you don’t feel that feeling anywhere else,” Smith said.