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Cheerleading injuries – what parents need to know

Cheerleading injuries – what cheer parents need to know 

Rosemary Marchese – Physiotherapist and Schroth Physio for Scoliosis

Cheerleading is growing in popularity in Australia, and with the cheer season just started, it’s timely to re-visit injury prevention tips parents should know. Cheerleading is a high impact sport, performed at a very fast pace for two-and-a-half minutes on stage in a team. The fast pace and high intensity makes it a high risk sport for injury.  

Injury prevention for cheerleaders 

  1. Equipment and surface – it’s a good idea to practice on a firm surface with some ‘give’, similar to the cheer floor. Be careful with unsupervised practice on trampolines. Trampoline practice can often be well-intended but can lead to poor technique.  
  2. Coaches – cheer coaches must be experienced and familiar with the rules. They should have completed minimum qualifications and be trained in First Aid. They should be familiar with restrictions on certain movements such as basket tosses, pyramid heights and twisting/flipping stunts.   
  3. Spotters – all cheerleaders must know how to spot properly.  
  4. Fitness – despite only being a short routine, it is super intense! High levels of fitness are required to prevent fatigue related injuries. Proper conditioning coaching by qualified staff can assist in this area.* 
  5. First Aid and Emergency Care Plan – all teams should have an emergency care plan to act on in the event of an accident.  

What are the common cheerleading injuries? 

 Common cheer injuries include: 

  • Ankle sprains – rolling and twisting of ankles can happen in unlucky accidents but also as a result of unstable ankles, poor biomechanics or poor techniques with landings on flips and jumps.  
  • Osgood Schlatter’s’ Disease (OSD) – this is where the patella tendon pulls on the insertion just under the knee. It’s typical during growth spurts and can also be the result of other factors such as poor biomechanics and overtraining. It is sometimes called Jumper’s Knee.  
  • Severs’ Disease – similar to OSD, but it happens where the Achilles meets the heel bone.  
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) or Runner’s Knee – this is when pain occurs under or around the patella (knee cap). It can be due to malalignment of the patella in the knee joint and can occur for many reasons including poor muscle strength, poor flexibility, poor lower limb and pelvic alignment and even overuse.  
  • Low back pain – I see this a lot in cheerleaders. It’s often related to a tendency for too many back walkovers during early levels of training. This is especially true when the technique hasn’t been corrected properly. It is also happening in flyers, where the need for excessive hyperextension of the back can cause back pain, or even stress fractures.  
  • Wrist and finger injuries – aches and pains in wrists are common, sometimes from overuse on relatively weak joints and muscles. Poor landings in flips can also exacerbate the risk. Bases, that have to support flyers, may also be holding heavy loads. Having a good core and glute strength can help take the load of wrists when trying to lift flyers.  

Final take home injury prevention tips for cheerleaders 

Simple tips to remember: 

  1. Pre-season conditioning involves consideration of the child’s role in the team. Flyers need more flexibility than bases but also need great core and leg strength to hold themselves in the air while posing.  
  2. Bases need great squat technique, in various positions, to be able to hold the load of a flyer without compromising their own backs, shoulders and wrists.  
  3. Cardio fitness is a great way to prevent fatigue. Pre-fatiguing children prior to intense full-out training is likely to increase injury risk.  
  4. Children should not be progressed too quickly. Perfecting technique while improving strength and flexibility is a great way to ensure that injury risk is minimised.  
  5. Fuel their bodies with great nutrition. Healthy eating provides energy, and with energy comes less injury risk.  

 *We have a great Kids’ Stretch and Strength class specifically designed for promoting conditioning and preventing injury. If you have any questions or your child requires a full body assessment please call 89140508 or make an appointment online