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Cheerleading IS a Sport

Studies have shown that cheerleading is the single most dangerous sport out there for high school girls. While cheerleaders make up only 3% of the 2.9 million female high school athletes, they make up 65% of all catastrophic injuries sustained by females. The injuries only include those that caused death, paralysis, or other long-term serious impairment, so the actual numbers are not very high. However, the number of cheerleaders taken to the emergency room each year is nearly 25,000. That doesn't include all of those sprains, bruises, and drops that don't result in a trip to the ER.

This ain't your Momma's cheerleading! This is the cheerleading of broken legs, arms, backs, and necks. This is the cheerleading of torn tendons and ligaments. This is the cheerleading of knocked-out teeth, black eyes, and big bruises and carpet burns. This is the cheerleading that IS a sport.

Sadly, the gyms and schools are not keeping up with the ever-increasing interest and involvement in the sport. Many squads still practice on gym floors with no mats. (Now, having been a cheerleader myself, I can say that those mats are pathetic excuses for safety equipment. They are about 1" of hard foam placed on a hard surface. And, honestly, they don't do much. But I can't imagine getting dropped the way I did on a gym floor. I probably would have been paralyzed. Instead, I just have chronic back pain. Yay!) Not only do many squads not have the proper equipment, they lack coaches with proper training. A real cheerleading coach has training in gymnastics, spotting, stunting, jumping, injury prevention, and first aid. Sadly, many people still think of cheerleaders as the bimbos on the side of the football field. But, they have evolved into amazing acrobats capable of inhuman stunts and tumbling. And, more and more parents are allowing their children to start earlier and earlier--to get that edge. It is time for people to recognize the accomplishments of the sport that is cheerleading--the high-flying, loop-da-looping, all-out tumbling, back-flipping, hand-clapping, fierce yelling, ESPN-invading sport that it is. And, it's time for people to put more effort into making it safe for our children.

Below, I have listed the recommendations from the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research
  • Cheerleaders should have medical exams, including a complete medical history, before they are allowed to participate.
  • Cheerleaders should be trained by a qualified coach with training in gymnastics, partner stunting, spotting and other safety factors.
  • Cheerleaders should undergo proper conditioning programs and training in spotting techniques.
  • Cheerleaders should demonstrate mastery of stunts before trying complicated routines. They should not attempt stunts they are not capable of completing.
  • Coaches should supervise all practice sessions in a safe facility. Mini-trampolines and flips or falls off of pyramids and shoulders should be prohibited.
  • Pyramids over two high should not be performed. Two-high pyramids should be performed only with mats and other safety precautions.
  • A physician or a certified athletic trainer should be at all games and practice sessions. If one is not available, written emergency procedures should be available to all staff and athletes.
  • There should be continued research concerning safety in cheerleading.
  • When cheerleaders have experienced or shown signs of head trauma, they should receive immediate medical attention. Signs to watch for: loss of consciousness, visual disturbances, headache, inability to walk correctly, obvious disorientation, memory loss.
  • Cheerleading coaches should have some type of safety certification.

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