Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cheer Leading Is Hazardous to A Parent's Health!


Mixed emotions accompanied my daughter to her first day of junior high as a cheerleader. So why the long face? Oh sure, the uniform looks sharp and one can only imagine how it will boost her popularity and her junior high experience. Yet, one trained in the law can not help but question whether her new found status could end up a danger to her health. Is this an overreaction as J.F., an ex-cheerleader might suggest?


Law teaches logic and reasoning. Consequently legal minds are guided by probability and statistics. What do statistics show? Cheer leading is the most dangerous female sport. It accounts for as much as two-thirds of severe school-sports injuries over the past 25 years. Despite the danger, cheer leading is one of the least-regulated school activities. With over 95,000 high school girls participating in cheer this year, a question remains as to how the activity can be enjoyed safely? Keep in mind, sometimes these injuries are very severe. For example, the University of North Carolina's National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research (NCCSI) reports 67 fatal or life-threatening injuries due to cheer leading since 1982. (Compare that to the dangerous sport of gymnastics which reported only nine catastrophic injuries.) Just how serious is the danger? Cheerleaders suffered more injuries than all other school athletes combined! In fact, cheer leading injuries accounted for 65% of all severe injuries on the high school level. In college it is even worse with cheer leading injuries accounting for 67% of all serious injuries.

The potential danger is getting worse. Cheerleaders who consider themselves athletes are often willing to take greater risks. Currently there are no regulations that require the reporting and accumulation of data concerning cheer leading injuries. In the 1980s, most schools eliminated gymnastics teams due to high liability costs. However, in cheer leading, sideline routines often involve the same type of high-flying acrobatics banned in gymnastics. Furthermore, to make the cheer squad gets more competitive each year as girls start cheer training at younger ages. Parents pay ridiculous sums of money in order to maximize their daughter chance to make the squad. Elite touring squads may even compete year-round.

Is cheer an activity or a sport? If it is a sport, why is it so important that they wear such short skirts? Does it matter? Some day it may make a difference as to safety regulations. While 20 states recognize cheer leading as a sport, it remains mostly unregulated. In Massachusetts legislation is contemplated to requiring specific rules and regulations to be promulgated for cheer training and competition. Massachusetts experienced two cheer leading fatalities: In 2005, Ashley Burns, a 14-year-old from Medford, Mass., died after being thrown into the air and landing on her stomach, causing her spleen to rupture. In 2008, 20-year-old Lauren Chang, died after being kicked in the chest. competition.

Jessica Smith is a spokesman for NCSF. She fell 15 feet while cheering for Sacramento City College when a teammate who was supposed to catch her lost his balance. Smith broke her back in two places. The first step in safety may be to get more coaches certified in safety. Only 30% of the 70,000 cheer leading coaches in the U.S. are currently certified by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators. Certification includes discussions of both legal and medical issues. Spirit organizations have begun to issue some safety guidelines. But such guidelines are almost never mandatory. So what is a dad to do? Smile and take a photo of of the new cheerleader heading off to school in her uniform and hope all of the athletic events for the year are cancelled due to inclement weather.

18 comments:

interested gymnast said...

So what you are saying is to bring back gymnastics, right?!


Interested gymnast

Ms Calabaza said...

LP,

you sound like such a dad! Be proud.

Anonymous said...

My daughter blew out her knee cheering. Trust me, it was not worth it.


Ginger

Anonymous said...

This is only the beginning of the trials and tribulations of being a Father.

Anonymous said...

While all of the above may be true, this is one dangerous activity!

Anonymous said...

One bad injury can put a black eye on the whole cheer experience. I broke a wrist cheering and it will never be the same!

Jane

Anonymous said...

Jane, I don't know anything about how you hurt your wrist. But I can tell you that a lot of nasty teen age boys get carpal tunnel syndrom in their wrists from going to bed at night dreaming about cheer leaders...

Anonymous said...

Hey! I used to resemble one of those ugly boys who needed wrist splints.

Anonymous said...

As a parent, you ask if the coach is first aid trained, certified in CPR, and certified by the NCSSE or AACCA. Does the school have AEDs and are several people trained to use them. Does the team have an emergency plan, and is that plan practiced often? If not, find another team for your daughter.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but if it is the junior high or highschool team, it is not like you can simply change schools!

Terri

ThinkAboutIt said...

I have a cheerleader daughter who has now been through 2 knee surgeries, hurt her ankle, hurt her shoulder, and hurt her wrist (not mentioning the number of bumps and bruises) within a 12-month period while on a junior high level squad.

Her knee injury happened while doing practice back flips into a foam pit at her tumbling class she was attending to try to be a better cheerleader. She skimmed the side of the pit with her knees catching the brunt of the force on the padded concrete edge of the pit. (Of course this was a week after she had seen another girl at tumbling break her tibia and fibia right in front of her where the bone snapped so loud that I heard it all the way on the other side of the gymnasium behind the protective glass in the parent waiting room.) The other injuries were sustained during a cheer routine trying to catch another girl so she didn't get hurt worse.

The really sad thing was that some of the mothers rolled their eyes when they saw her on crutches after finally healing from the shoulder/wrist and were only concerned if she was going to be able to participate at the competition. Their second question was what did she do. And their last question was if she was OK. WTF is that!!

The stunts that these girls do now are so scary to watch. I wish they could figure out how to use the rope belt that gymnasts often use or start awarding more points for the creativity rather than the "death-defying"ness of the routine.

My daughter is still on cheerleading at the high school level but has completely stopped tumbling even though her coach was pissed off at her. She said it hurts her knees too much and she is petrified after seeing the other girl break her leg but they still tried to force her into tumbling - even though she is scared to death to get hurt again.

I told her to stick her guns and not get hurt any more.

Anonymous said...

I so agree with the above. Cheer should be fun not dangerous. These injuries will affect these girls for the rest of their lives. Why?
Just to entertain. It is not worth it!



Jenny

Anonymous said...

Nice plug for the AACCA and NCSSE certification. Funny how that's the answer all the cheerleading companies keep giving as to what parents should do to help insure their child's safety.

Are those companies the same ones that have been regulating themselves for the last 25 years? Look at the study. Your report card on safety is an F!

If parents want safety in cheerleading they better fight for it to be regulated as a sport so that they can have better trained coaches who have guidelines, use sports medicine and epidemiology instead of these money hungry, clowns that run these cheer companies.

Oh and by the way Jessica Smith's coach was AACCA certified. Lauren Chang's coach was certifed and so was Ashley Burns. Two are dead and one broke her neck. Regulation or a paper certificate? You decide.

Anonymous said...

Great point! It takes more than a peace of paper to clean up the safety issues!

Anonymous said...

I'm a cheerleader and I think that all cheerleaders know that the sport can be dangerous and if you really want to be on the squad and love the sport, then your willing to take that risk. If you think it's too dangerous then don't do it..and parnets it's your job to make sure your child is making a good decision and if you think it is too dangerous for your child then don't let them do it.

Anonymous said...

Cheer leader:

Very mature post. Do cheerleader sign a waiver that they know it is dangerous and they waive any right to sue the cheer organization, school and coaches?

Old School said...

Cheer leaders do sign waivers and I feel that they are entirely valid.

Old School

Anonymous said...

Clearly a cheer leader assumes the risk of any injury common in her sport.