Cheerleading isn't for the weak of heart. In fact, the American Medical Association recently voted to declare it a sport because doctors were seeing so many injuries! While you can't just stop stunting or tumbling, there are steps you can take to minimize your chance of injury.

Here are some common reasons cheerleaders get injured:

  1. Not wearing proper apparel. Make sure you wear fitted clothing to practice. This will protect both you and your teammates. If your clothing is loose or has holes in it, your teammates can get their fingers caught in it when they go to catch you. Wear fitted clothing to avoid broken fingers! Shoes can cause problems too if the soles are worn and cause you to trip. Make sure to buy the right shoes for your position and replace them when it's time.

  1. Misplacing good intentions. Good cheerleaders always put the squad first. This means giving their all and doing whatever it takes to help the team. But what you might not realize is that pushing yourself through pain is not good for the team. The squad needs you healthy, and it's better to give yourself time to heal than to push yourself too hard and end up unable to participate when it counts. Listen to your body!

  1. Not doing a proper warm up. Cheerleaders put their bodies through a lot, so a good warm up is critical. You could strain a muscle by attempting a move before the muscle is ready. Get your blood flowing and your muscles loosened up before going all out at practice. Always get warm before you stretch, whether by jogging or doing jumping jacks, jumping rope, etc.

  1. Ignoring warning signs. Often, your body will give you hints that it needs some extra attention before a major injury occurs. Pay attention! If your wrist or ankle starts hurting, don't ignore it. You don't necessarily have to stop, but you can wrap it for extra support and ice it afterward.

  1. Not making safety a priority. When it comes to practicing stunts or more complicated moves, it is important to use common sense. Don't do anything you aren't ready for and make sure safety standards are in place. Don't hesitate to talk to your coach about his or her safety measures, and you can take the initiative yourself by researching cheer safety. There is a free guide to cheerleading safety in our University.

  1. Neglecting your general well-being. By taking care of yourself and prioritizing your health, you can minimize injuries. Make sure you have the strength and conditioning necessary to perform the moves required. This might mean you have to exercise on your own outside of practice. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, as well as protein to help your muscles recover from hard workouts. Make sure you always drink plenty of water throughout the day, not just at practice. And, finally, sleep! Your body uses this time to recover, plus it keeps you alert and focused so you can nail your stunts!

What steps do you take to stay healthy?