Cheerleading is a long-standing tradition at football and basketball games. A squad of identically dressed girls leads the crowd in cheers to motivate and energize the team. Cheerleading is right up there with mom and apple pie—it’s Americana.
Is Cheerleading A Sport?
But, recently, cheerleading has evolved into a sport-like activity that supports another sport. The routines are becoming so physically challenging that some would like to have cheerleading classified as a sport. Cheerleading competitions are viewed on TV with scoring and competition for the top seats. Some cheerleaders are coming home from games with more bruises than their siblings are on the football field.
American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA)
There is an entity that monitors cheerleading. The AACCA is implementing a safety certification program that would monitor safety in cheerleading. The problem is that no one is monitoring the regulation to make sure it is followed.
Cheerleading Accidents More Serious
The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research has been keeping data on high school female cheerleaders for twenty years. The center kept records from 1987 to 2017. The data was not reassuring to parents of cheerleaders. During those twenty years, the center found
- Two deaths
- 21 permanent disabilities
- 44 serious injuries
- General bumps and bruises
The journal, Pediatrics, published data in 2006 that revealed injuries from 1990 to 2002 in cheerleading. In that span of time, it recorded 22,900 injuries.
- 52.4% strains or sprains
- 18.4% soft-tissue injuries
- 16.4% fractures and dislocations
- 3.8% lacerations
- 3.5% concussions
- 5.5% miscellaneous injuries
Cheerleading As A Sport
Some argue that if cheerleading was considered a sport, regulations would be mandatory and this would improve safety. Others doubt that it would decrease injuries. Summer camps could be offered for cheerleaders and coaches and everyone receives training on safety maneuvers.
The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators has some advice to improve safety.
- Have a coach that is certified through a safety program.
- Do background checks.
- Does the coach follow restrictions on basket tosses and the use of mats?
- Does the coach follow accepted performance guidelines?
- Does the coach insist that skills be taught in the proper sequence?
- Are all members of the squad instructed on proper spotting techniques?
- Is there an emergency plan in place?
- Does the coach balance practice times with other school activities?
- What is the past injury record of the coach?
With so many injuries and even deaths associated with cheerleading, the time has come to treat it as a sport, impose regulations, and monitor injuries.