Diego Castro-Diaz1, Abigail Johnson2, Jessica Mutchler1, Jay Garner3, Li Li, FACSM1, Barry Munkasy1, Sam Wilson1. 1Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA. 2University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. 3Troy University, Troy, AL.

BACKGROUND: Cheerleading requires athletes to perform movements with a focus on balance maintenance. Footwear affects human balance, and literature suggests that older footwear may cause further balance decrements. However, balance has not been examined in cheerleader-specific footwear. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine balance in collegiate cheerleaders while wearing “old” and “new” cheer shoes. METHODS: Twenty-five healthy male (n = 5) and female (n = 20) collegiate cheerleaders with no history of neuro-musculoskeletal disorders completed this study. Participants completed balance testing on separate testing days while wearing either a “new” or “old” pair of cheerleading shoes. Participants self-reported the number of training hours that the shoes have been worn in order to calculate shoe age. Balance testing consisted of three 20-second trials for each condition. Balance conditions were randomized for each participant and included bilateral stance on the force plate and foam pad. Unilateral stance on the dominant, and non-dominant limb on the force plate, and foam pad. The average sway velocity (VEL) and root-mean-square (RSMS) of the center of pressure was used to quantify balance in the anterior-posterior (AP) and medial-lateral (ML) directions. Paired samples t-tests were used to analyze the results, with an alpha level of 0.05, and Cohen’s d was reported as a measure of effect size. RESULTS: Analyses revealed no statistically significant differences for balance measures between footwear (all p > 0.05). However, results did suggest moderate effect sizes in the non-dominant foam pad condition for APRMS (d = 0.58) and MLRMS (d = 0.48) suggesting balance decrements in the new shoes. CONCLUSIONS: While not statistically significant, findings of this study may suggest balance decrements in the new cheer shoes. These findings may be due to the novel aspect of the new shoes compared to the older shoes the participants may be more familiar with. Further, because of the novelty of the new shoes participants may have attempted to rely more on proprioceptive input during balance compared to the old shoes. If participants relied more on proprioceptive information on the unstable foam pad surface that may partially explain the increased postural sway. Future research should examine varying ages of shoes to potentially identify when cheer footwear begins to break down and cause balance decrements.

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