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Limitations to Progress/Prevention

Just as there are significant risk factors for these injuries, there are also significant limiting factors to progress and prevention in this area. Unfortunately, there is no primary organization to “govern” the safety practices for cheerleading. This leads to discrepancy in safety guidelines and recommendations. For instance, the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA), the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA), the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) all have their own set of safety guidelines. While they may share many commonalities, one exclusive set of rules would be more effective.

Also, there is little or no enforcement of the guidelines as they are only recommended. Likewise, there are rarely any penalizations for not cooperating with recommendations. Some organizations will not allow a team to participate or their score will be deducted, but the effectiveness of this type of policy is unknown. It is important to remember that many injuries occur during practices, not just at competitions.

There also seems to be discrepancy between the different levels of teams. Varsity teams seem to receive more safety training and have higher levels of safety compliance than less-skilled junior-varsity teams (Kozlowski, 2001). This is especially worrisome as the lower-skilled teams likely need more safety guidance and supervision.

As discussed earlier, the lack of a central tracking/reporting system is a major deterrent for preventing injuries. To adequately assess the situation and make positive changes, one must first understand the nature and complexity of the problem. Because of the multiple differences in safety guidelines, and because most areas do not classify cheerleading as a sport, data is very difficult to collect. Even the NCCSI has been identifying incomplete information sources. The NCCSI began collaborating with the National Cheer Safety Foundation in 2008 for data collection on cheerleading-related injuries and deaths. Through this collaboration it was determined that the NCCSI (which previously reported 70 catastrophic injuries from 1982 to 2007) did not have record of at least 30 additional injury events (Mueller & Cantu, 2007).

Additional risk factors that may limit injury prevention stem from the current disjointed safety system. There may be a considerable lack of experience of both participants and coaches that are not recognized. In addition to improperly trained coaches, insufficient supervision is an issue. Participants may not be conditioned properly for performing stunts with increased difficulty, and such stunts may be practiced and/or performed on inappropriate surfaces/equipment.

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Photo Source: upainc.net

SUMMARY:

--No primary organization for cheerleading safety practices

--Little or no enforcement of current guidelines/recommendations

--Safety discrepancy between different cheer squads

--Lack of central tracking/reporting system

--Lack of experience/knowledge on behalf of both coaches and athletes