• Cheerleading reportedly originated in the 1880s, when Princeton University formed an all-male pep club to support its football team. However, some have called University of Minnesota student Johnny Campbell the first official cheerleader when he organized a crowd of football spectators in 1898.

  • Cheerleading involves a combination of dance, gymnastics, and overall athleticism and has evolved largely from the 1980s and 1990s to what we see today.

  • Teams are found at recreational, club, and varsity levels.

  • All-Star teams are focused primarily on competition against other cheer teams, rather than cheering for another sports team.

  • Organized cheer may be found in three scenarios:

    • Competition

      • Routines are performed and judged based on difficulty and execution of maneuvers.

      • Events typically last 1–2 days.

      • Generally held on spring floors or gymnasium hardwood floors

    • Performance

      • Participate in pep rallies or engage in sideline cheering and other events, rather than competition.

      • May occur on a wide variety of surfaces, including grass or turf, gymnasium hardwood, or cafeteria and multipurpose room flooring that ranges from linoleum to tile and carpet

    • Practice

      • Regular practices occur at the high school and college levels, similar to that held for other sports teams

      • Sometimes more than one session per day

  • Growth of cheerleading

    • In 1995, there were 30,954 cheerleaders on competition squads registered in the National Federation of High Schools database.

    • This had increased to about 114,400 by 2003.

    • In 2003, there were approximately 3.6 million cheerleaders of all ages.

Glossary of Terms

Some terms taken from the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA).

  • Base: A person in direct contact with the performing surface and supporting another person’s weight.

  • Cradle: A dismount from a partner stunt, pyramid, or toss, in which the catch is completed below shoulder height by a base or bases with a top person in a face-up open-pike position.

  • Dive roll: A forward roll where the feet leave the ground before the hands reach the ground.

  • Drop: Landing on the performance surface from an airborne position.

  • Elevator/sponge toss: A stunt in which a top person loads in to an elevator/sponge-loading position and is then tossed into the air.

  • Flip: When a person is airborne while his or her feet pass over the head.

  • Helicopter: A stunt in which a top person is tossed into the air in a horizontal position and rotates parallel to the ground in the same motion as a helicopter blade.

  • Inverted: Refers to a body position where the shoulders are below the waist.

  • Middle: A person who is being supported by a base while also supporting a top person.

  • Post: A person on the performing surface who may assist a top person during a stunt or transition.

  • Prep: A stunt in which one or more bases holds a standing top person at approximately shoulder height.

  • Prep level: When a top person’s base of support is at approximately shoulder height.

  • Pyramid: A skill in which a top person is being supported by a middle and base layer person.

  • Quick toss/partner toss: A toss technique where a top person begins the toss with at least one foot on the ground.

  • Release stunt: A transition from one stunt to another (including loading positions) in which a top person becomes free from all bases, posts, and spotters.

  • Rewind: A skill in which a top person starts with both feet on the ground is tossed into the air and performs a backward or side rotation into a stunt or loading position. Flips are limited to one rotation and twists are not permitted.

  • Spotter: A person who is responsible for assisting or catching a top person in a partner stunt or pyramid. This person cannot be in a position of providing primary support for the top person but must be in a position to protect the top person coming off of a stunt or pyramid.

  • Stunt/partner stunt: One or more persons supporting one or more top persons off of the ground.

  • Top/flyer: A person who is not in contact with the performing surface and is being stabilized by another person or who has been tossed into the air.

  • Toss: A release stunt in which the base(s) begin underneath a top person’s foot/feet and execute a throwing motion from below shoulder level to increase the height of the top person, and the top person becomes free from all bases, spotters, posts, or bracers.

  • Tumbling: Gymnastic skills that begin and end on the performing surface.

Governing Bodies

  • American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA): Founded in 1987 with a focus on promoting safety and safety education in cheerleading

  • US All-Star Federation: Founded in 2003 to promote All-Star-style cheer as a competitive sport; the governing body for cheer teams and competitions that are not associated with schools

  • USA Cheer: Founded in 2007 as the governing body for sport cheering in the US

  • National Federation of High School Sports (NFHS): Provides rules for high school cheerleading as it does for other sports

Safety Rules

  • Rules for junior high school-, high school-, and college-level cheer may be found at the CheerRules website ( ), a joint venture between the AACCA, its CheerSafe initiative, and the NFHS.

  • Rules vary based on league and location, especially for recreational cheer teams.

  • AACCA provides age-based guidelines for safety, particularly with regard to:

    • Height of builds

    • Allowable maneuvers

    • Surface-specific restrictions

  • Youth recreational cheer guidelines (AACCA Guidelines 2015) have the following provisions:

    • For all teams:

      • No basket or elevator tosses

      • No tension rolls

      • Tumbling acceptable but not required

      • No twisting tumbling (Arabians or full twists)

      • No released twists (no helicopters, log rolls, or twisting cradles)

      • Only straight cradles allowed.

      • A spotter is required on all buildings.

      • No inversions allowed in stunts.

    • Flag Level (K-1 st Grade):

      • No building above the waist level

      • One foot must be in contact with the base at all times.

      • Thigh stands acceptable.

    • Peewee Level (2 nd –3 rd Grade):

      • No building above shoulder level

      • Elevator preps, shoulder level liberties, and shoulder stands/sits acceptable.

      • One foot must be in contact with the base at all times, except during a cradle.

    • Junior Level (4 th –6 th Grade): Top girls must have one foot in contact with the base at all times during any extended stunt.

  • USASF provides All-Star competition guidelines; the execution of more complex maneuvers and stunts are allowed at the higher numbered levels.

  • NFHS interprets risk-related guidelines set forth by the AACCA for high school squads.


  • The overall injury rate in cheerleading is 0.9 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures (AEs), which is lower than that in gymnastics (8.5), soccer (5.3), basketball (4.4), softball (3.5), and volleyball (1.7).

  • Injury rates higher in competition than in other settings

    • 0.89–1.40 per 1,000 AEs in competition

    • 0.80–1.00 per 1,000 AEs in practice

    • 0.50–0.80 per 1,000 AEs in performance

    • 0.75–1.00 per 1,000 AEs overall

  • Injury rates were not associated with a coach’s credentials or his/her completion of cheerleading safety training courses.

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Jul 19, 2019 | Posted by in SPORT MEDICINE | Comments Off on Cheerleading

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