If your child cheers – or is thinking about it – be sure her (or his) school has the equipment and protocols to ensure safety. This checklist of safety measures from the National Cheer Safety Foundation in Los Angeles could end up being the difference between life and death.
1. Automated external defibrillators
Ensure there’s at least one per school. These computerized lifesavers check heart rhythms and tell the user when a shock is required. Only 5 percent of Sudden Cardiac Arrest victims survive without early defibrillation.
2. Injuries reported
Report injuries to Cheer Injury Report to help make future safety guidelines more effective.
3. Certified coaches
For high school cheerleading, coaches should be certified by the National Federation of High School Sports in CPR, first aid and basic coaching skills. Find out how much experience the coach has and whether they have previous experience with the stunts the athletes are performing.
4. Emergency plans
Insist that a catastrophic emergency plan be rehearsed and registered. Coaching staffs need to know how to respond to emergencies and when to call 911. Coaches should be able to access at least a first aid kit, splint kit and AED and know how to effectively communicate with emergency personnel. EMTs should be on-hand at all competitions.
5. Heat illness prevention
Make sure there’s a heat illness prevention program. Athletes need to stay hydrated; it’s recommended that there be 10 minutes of water break for every 20 minutes of heavy exercise in hot weather. Gradual physical conditioning should also be used to help athletes get used to the heat – and, of course, any previous heat illnesses should be noted.
6. Be involved
You can play a role in keeping your child safe. Let your child know you support them, no matter what, and stay to watch at least some practices. Not allowing parents to watch may be a red flag.
7. Proper equipment
There should never be any stunting, tumbling or repetitive jumps on any surface but a tumbling mat or air or spring floor.