Are Spring Floors Dangerous?

I have not done any statistical analysis or conducted any experiments to research this topic.  This is strictly based on my experiences and observations (plus some common sense).  So, here is my highly unscientific discussion on whether or not spring floors are dangerous for cheerleading.

My initial reaction to the question is this; That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!  Springs are used in mattresses, right?  That means they are a cushion.  If your going to fall wouldn’t you rather fall on a cushion than on a firm surface?  The biggest danger in cheerleading comes from falling, and if spring floors make falls hurt less, that should make it a no-brainer, right?  Well, some people disagree.  Here are some arguments I have heard against spring floors.

  1. Spring floors make you tumble higher and faster so if you are not used to them, they can cause you to land with more force than you are prepared for or to over rotate and land awkwardly.  This argument makes some sense, BUT it is important to note that the spring floor itself is not the concern.  It is a cheerleaders unfamiliarity with the floor.  Honestly, in the USA, I think it would be difficult to find many cheer teams that do not have reasonable access to train on a spring floor (albeit for a fee).  Nevertheless, assuming cheerleaders are forced to compete on a spring floor and they have not practiced on a spring floor previously, the above situations could occur and increase landing injuries such as sprained ankles, torn ACL’s and possibly over rotations to crash landings on the tail bone or even shoulders and neck (although that would be a MAJOR over rotation).
  2. Spring floors make you over-confident so you might try skills that you are not prepared for.  Let me make myself perfectly clear.  I completely, utterly and totally reject this argument!  This is not an equipment issue.  This is a coaching issue.  Your coach needs to determine what skills you are prepared to safely execute and your coach should be capable of determining what effect, if any, a spring floor will have on that.  The simple solution to this concern is to use good judgement.
  3. Spring floors have more give than simple mats and can cause stunts to be less stable and fall.  It is certainly true that when you walk around on a spring floor you can feel it dip under your weight.  It is also true that an especially worn or poorly maintained spring floor can have “dead spots” that could cause unevenness and less stability.  While this concern has some merit, I consider it minimal.  In fact, I would say it is negligible when dealing with a quality spring floor.  And any additional spills that might occur in the rarest occasion from this instability should be more than made up for from the added safety provided by the softer landing on springs.  I have seen flyers fall completely untouched from basket tosses straight to their backs on a spring floor and walk away with only the wind knocked out of them.  Try that on a flat mat and see what happens.  Better yet, don’t and take my word for it, it would be worse.

I’m sure there are other arguments that could be made but I think I hit the main ones.  As you can see, I favor spring floors for cheerleading.  I believe any additional dangers potentially posed by the extra, unexpected power and/or uneven stability, are more than compensated for by good judgement and coaching and the increased cushion that springs provide.  I would not say it is a complete no brainer, but I really do not see a winning argument against springs.

Having said that, it makes me wonder why this is even an issue in the first place.  I have heard some fair statements about how competing on spring floor gives an unfair advantage to teams that have the resources (mostly financial ones) to train on a spring floor regularly.  I agree that there is something to that, however, the argument is not about competitive fairness.  It is about safety.

Another argument I have heard has to do with the expense for event producers of providing a spring floor (actually 2 when you count one for the warm up area).  Again, this is a real consideration for newer and smaller event providers, but NOT a safety concern.

One issue that I find strangely accepted across the board is that it is ok (safe) for all star teams to compete on spring floors but not school teams.  I supposed the thinking is that an all star team can probably train exclusively on a spring floor as opposed to a school team.  As I discussed above, I do not agree with that particular argument.  I have heard (and am not yet prepared to repeat) several conspiracy theories about why spring floors are allowed for all stars and not for school teams.  That might be a topic for a future article and I’ll wait until then to get into it.  What I will say should come as no surprise, and that is that it has to do with money.  Go figure.

But all conspiracy theories aside (for now), I remain firm in my belief that there is just no justification for the belief that spring floors are more dangerous for school cheerleading teams than non-spring floors.  I hope that anyone who has a differing opinion will feel free to share it!

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