Is Cheerleading too dangerous? Does it need to be changed? Or does the coaching system simply need to be tweaked to provide a more safety minded mindset?

A Wall Street Journal article on September 17, 2009 addressed the increasingly popular sport of cheerleading and the dangers it presents to girls across America. More news coverage of the injuries incurred by cheerleaders is causing debate on whether certain aspects of the sport should be banned or at least changed. With cheerleading being the cause of “65% of all female catastrophic injuries in high school and college…according to the University of North Carolina's National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research.” There is no wonder why people are upset that this high risk sport does not have the same quality of medical assistance present at all times, as with other sports such as football. To help decrease the risk factor different levels of cheerleading are taking preventive measures such as, “College teams are no longer allowed to perform three-person-high pyramids and do double flips from them. High school teams can't perform flipping basket tosses and last year, twisting dismounts were banned on basketball courts.” Some states (like Wisconsin) view cheerleading as a high risk sport and called it a “contact sport” which the Wisconsin's Supreme Court’s decision “prevents injured cheerleaders from suing their schools or teammates.”

If cheerleading is such a high risk sport as to be considered a contact sport, should not the association which regulates it, make changes to protect the participants or change the way the sport is performed all together. To truly estimate the risk of cheerleading first the sport must attempt to account for all participants across the country. The Wall Street Journal says that “estimates say there are about 400,000 public high school cheerleaders, but the NCAA doesn't track participation (it's not considered a sport) and the number of cheerleaders on private teams isn't known.” The number of cheerleaders all together is hard to pinpoint, but “if you go by the consensus estimate -- that there are about 4 million cheerleaders across the country -- the activity looks about as risky as women's soccer.”

What was the original purpose of cheerleading: to get the crowd’s energy up and to support and “cheer” on the team. There is no doubt that the ways of cheerleading have shifted with regular stunts in routines consisting of split jumps called the “Herkie”, flipping basket tosses, and twisting dismounts. If the stunts of cheerleading of today remain, maybe the activity should be reconsidered an organized sport, instead of just a “girly athletic activity.”

There have been motions set in place to attempt in helping injured cheerleaders. Kimberly Archie founded the National Cheer Safety Foundation in 2008, created this program as a parent of a cheerleader who broke her arm during a practice. She hopes this program will help parents be more aware of the injuries and ultimately help reduce the risks that cheerleaders face constantly. Archie’s organization has been in the forefront of cheerleader safety issues and advocating for positive changes. She’s a positive force that has successfully resisted the headwinds pushing against change.

Should this highly dangerous but popular activity be changed all together, have tighter regulations, or continue to victimize America’s young girls of today. As a parent it’s your choice to accept the status quo or push for changes that may protect your child from a life of misery. All coaches need to get on the safety band wagon for the sake of the cheerleaders. It’s a terrific sport.

 

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Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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