Polyurethane Is Hitting the Mat with Cheerleaders
Thanks to the recent popularity of a streaming docuseries, there is now an even more fervent interest in the sport of cheerleading. While it may not be at the front and center of cheer routines or at pep rallies, polyurethane is behind the scenes doing its part to help cheerleaders be safer. At the amateur, high school and college levels, polyurethane has become a familiar fixture at practices and competitions.
Often, a mat is the only thing that separates these high-flying and tumbling athletes from the hard ground. Today, many gym mats used in cheerleading are made using polyurethane. Polyurethane has the flexibility and give needed to cushion the impact from landing acrobatics, while still providing the springiness cheerleaders need for tumbles and tosses. Plus, polyurethane is durable enough to stand up to the repeated impact of athletes performing a cheer routine. The mats also can be easily rolled away and keeping them clean is usually a snap.
Cheerleading presents its own challenges for shoe manufacturers. Here is where polyurethane often plays a unique role. Polyurethane may be used in the mid-sole of the shoe and can help shape how much flexibility or firmness the shoe may have. Depending upon whether a cheerleader is focusing on dancing, tumbling or being tossed high into the air, some prefer a shoe with a supportive firm bottom. Others prefer to have some flexibility to lend their feet some added range of dexterity. In both these scenarios, the thickness of the polyurethane mid-sole can help the wearer find the right fit.
Thanks to its stretchiness, polyurethane is being added to the fabric of more and more athletic wear. Polyurethane helps clothing articles stretch — moving with the wearer — and is extremely flexible. This helps reduce the risk of a cheerleader getting tangled up in their clothing during a routine, thereby decreasing the risk of injury. And, thanks to its lighter weight, polyurethane can help lessen bulkiness in clothing without restricting the range of motion — an added advantage for a sport that requires flexibility for spins, flips and handsprings.
Cheerleading is a sport that plays close attention to aesthetic and details. Often a well-placed ribbon or swatch of brightly colored fabric can make all the difference when it comes to making a routine more pleasing to the eye — which hopefully benefits a team when a judge is rendering a final score. In a sport in which a few tenths of a point can make the difference between a second-place finish and a win, competing teams want to give themselves every possible advantage. While tiny flourishes may help a higher score, they must not interfere with an athlete’s ability to perform, and this is where polyurethane comes in. In the form of ribbon, fabric, or even tape, polyurethane is durable, stretchable, lightweight, and able to hold colors in all manner of conditions and environments.
To avoid serious injury or to prevent further injury, cheerleaders will often use athletic tape made with polyurethane to tape joints, like fingers and ankles. Doing so provides extra support to these areas, helping to shield them from impact. Taping an area like the ankle, for example, offers external stabilization. Athletic tape that contains polyurethane can also be made breathable, stretchable, and lightweight. For long hours, and day after day of practices and performances, breathable polyurethane athletic tape also can help prevent irritation to areas of the body that may require repeated taping.