Doctors call for stricter safety rules as the number of cheerleading injuries rise

Published: Dec. 3, 2012 at 8:05 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 7, 2013 at 7:47 PM CST
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Over the years cheerleading has evolved. It's not just waving pom poms and showing spirit fingers at football games.  It's become a competitive year round activity, an activity that's not considered a sport in Alabama, but can be potentially as dangerous. As the number of cheerleading injuries rise, doctors are calling for stricter safety rules.

With every failed stunt and awkward landing in cheerleading lies the potential for injury. Bob Jones High cheerleader Madisen Reece has been a cheerleader for years.  She said she's had some close calls.

"It is kind of scary when you first start out going up as a flyer because you're the one that's on top and you can fall from high places," she said.

It's that type of risk that lead the American Academy of Pediatrics to offer new guidelines to prevent cheerleading injuries.  According to an October press release sent by the Academy, since 2007 there are 26,000 cheerleading injuries in the U.S. annually.  The fast paced floor routine and sky high stunts account for 42 percent to 60 percent of all injuries.

Orthopedic Surgeon Doctor John Greco said he sees lots of different injuries associated with this activity.

"I think because you see more impressive stunts and you see more folks in organized cheering, especially with the back ground of gymnastics leading into cheering, you see more injuries," he said.  "We see back injuries.  Some of the knee injuries are actually quite significant.  If you are tumbling and you land awkwardly, we've seen ACL tears and fractures.  We've seen shoulder dislocations and a lot of broken arms. So there are a lot of things that you see."

But head cheerleading coach at Bob Jones High Daniel Harrod said injury numbers depend on one big thing.

"It's really not as dangerous if it's coached correctly," he said.  "You have to make sure you are certified in all the areas to teach this.  Especially with the new safety precautions you have to be well aware and know how to train these girls so that they don't get hurt."

The Academy is calling for cheerleading to be recognized as a sport and make it subject to safety rules and better supervision. Although most high schools and colleges have cheerleaders, only 29 state high school athletic associations recognize it as a sport.

"I think we are more than a sport," Harrod said.  "Because if you classify us as a sport then we won't be on the side lines, we'll just be training for competitions. So, if you leave it the way it is, we can kind of do the best of both worlds. In a sense, yes, it would be great for us to be a sport. But it would be bad for us to be a sport because we wouldn't be able do what we originally started.  We originally started to support other athletes."

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