Finding the Right Team Sport for Your Child
What kids stand to gain from seven popular team sports, the potential risks, and how to keep them safe
What kids can gain: Cheerleading is the ultimate in teaching teamwork--if even one participant isn't in sync, the whole routine is off. The sport also promotes flexibility and agility, as leaps and flips have become ever more a part of the cheerleading ritual. It also requires full-body conditioning and toning, unlike many other sports, says Dr. McCambridge.
What kids risk: As kids move up the ranks and begin to do more gymnastic-type stunts, there are some real dangers. Each year, there are about 27,000 cheer-related injuries, and the most common are what you'd expect: muscle pulls, tendon and ligament strains and sprains, knee and ankle injuries. More serious accidents, though relatively rare, still exist. New guidelines are now in place that ban double-twist dismounts and basket tosses (where a kid is thrown in the air by two others with interlocked arms) for middle-schoolers.
How to keep them safe: Talk to the coach, and find out about her background and training. In particular, ask if she's certified by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches & Administrators; these coaches have completed medical, legal, and safety training. And watch for peer pressure: the fear of looking weak can make kids stay quiet about injuries or routines they aren't ready for. It's vital to teach your children to speak up.