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Cheerleading: How to keep raising spirit while lowering injuries Get Mental D id you know that in our area we have some of the best cheerleaders in the country? No longer are halftimes just about pom-poms and miniskirts, but actually about athletes who are performing team stunts, gymnastics, and tricks that were once reserved for trapeze artists. Cheerleaders at Alhambra High, Northgate, Clayton Valley and College Park, as well as many other Bay Area schools are competing at national levels and practicing more than 20 hours a week. New acrobatic maneuvers have turned cheerleaders into daredevils. And while the sport has retained its sense of glamour, at dozens of competitions around the country, knee braces and ice bags affixed to ankles and wrists have become accessories as common as mascara. Most common injuries are to the legs, knees, and ankles (62%), the spine (28.5%), and lastly the upper arm, elbow, and wrist (9.5%). A study of 9,022 cheerleaders reported 83% of injuries occurred during practice with 52% of injuries occurring while performing a stunt. A stunt is a common part of cheer where tricks are done atop pyramids or in mid-air, performing twists and flips 20 feet above ground. If all goes well, an airborne cheerleader — known as a flier — is caught by other cheerleaders, but this is not always the case. Of the injuries caused from stunting, 96% were from concussions and closed head injuries. So what can be done to prevent some of the injuries while continuing with highlevel performances? First and foremost, have a plan in case of emergencies. At The National Cheer Safety Federation, www., you can find sample emergency plans. Fatigue was noted as one of the predictors for increased injury rate. Make sure to alert your coaches if you are sick or feeling tired. Finally, technique is paramount. Like any other sport, proper squatting, landing, and jumping techniques are imperative to safety. Below are some tips to Health Watch Robin Bousquet Support Your Local Business • Say You Found Them In SportStars™ Dr. Doug Gardner, SportStars’ official sports psychologist, has delivered another edition of his “Get Mental” column in which he tackles the challenges athletes face in finding motivation for self-improvement. You can read it online. Right now, even! (Assuming your computer is with you). Go to and click on ‘Highlights.’ improve your cheerleading safety and reduce injuries per the National Athletic Trainers Association. ■ Proper conditioning: Physically prepare and maintain your strength, flexibility, and stamina for stunting and tumbling. Strengthen your core muscles along with the upper and lower body and include aerobic (running, jogging, cycling, swimming) and anaerobic (wind sprints, circuit training) activities. ■ Proper equipment: Practice on mats until your routines are perfected. Make sure the mats are adequately sized and sufficient for the activities you’re performing. ■ Spotting: Have trained spotters present and engaged at all times. ■ Communication: Request that your coaches review safety precautions, rules and regulations with the squad on a regular basis, and that they establish and implement an emergency action plan. ■ Know your limits: Be aware of your (cheerleaders) ability level and do not attempt advanced-level gymnastic or stunting skills before mastering less-advanced skills. Always have a supervisor present. ■ Treatment of injuries: Promptly attend to any injuries you sustain. Your school or organization’s athletic trainer can assist in the proper treatment and prevention of such injuries. ✪ Alhambra High cheer coach Carol Herndon contributed to this column. Robin Bousquet is a physical therapist for the staff of Sports Medicine For Young Athletes, a division of Children’s Hospital Oakland with a facility also located in Walnut Creek. If you have questions or comments regarding the “Health Watch” column, write the Sports Medicine For Young Athletes staff at January 27, 2011 SportStars™ 19

Issue 16, 01.27.2011

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