The last time I went to a high school football game, it wasn’t the supersonic runs or crushing tackles that got my attention. It was the cheerleaders being tossed so high, you’d think they’d bring rain.
Cheerleading has changed a lot since I was in high school, and not completely in a good way. Rates of injuries and visits to the ER have jumped 400% since 1980.
The tosses are getting higher, the pyramids steeper, and tumbles rockier.
That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics now says cheerleading should be officially declared a sport, and treated like a sport. In other words, recognizing cheerleaders as athletes.
Their recommendations include: pre-participation physicals, limitations on practice time, training and certification for cheer coaches and supervisors, and providing athletic trainers to be on site for both practices and games. Plus maybe toning down some of the more dangerous “try to top this” routines.
Makes sense when you look at the numbers of broken arms, concussions, and neck injuries. And while some may say cheerleading isn’t as injury ridden as other girls sports such as soccer or lacrosse, it does have a higher rate of catastrophic injuries such as fractured skulls and paralysis.
So while many of us fans may ooh and ahh at a great hit on a running back in open field, we also don’t want to be hiding our eyes from the cheerleader who does a faceplant off of the top of a sky-high pyramid.
It is time to recognize the sport for what it is— a sport.