Los Angeles Times reporter Melissa Rohlin did a great job with an in-depth piece on cheerleading, particularly at the high school level, and just how dangerous and unsupervised the stunts are.
The father of one cheerleader who was seriously injured in a stunt told Rohlin, "I didn't know that they were throwing her up in the air. That's for professionals. Why would the school allow that?"
It's an interesting question, and the statistics that the Los Angeles Times throws out there are startling. The most amazing evidence was done by Fox Sports, which scientifically examined a common cheer stunt--the basket toss--where a cheerleader is thrown in the air and caught by three of her teammates.
Fox concluded that the impact of a fall from a basket toss (basically, if the teammates don't catch her) is 2,000 pounds. In comparison, the force that an NFL linebacker crunches an opponent is 1,800 pounds.
So what do you think? Is there reason to be seriously concerned about the sport of cheerleading? Should there be a rule limiting how high in the air cheerleaders can be thrown, if at all?
I know at my college alma mater, they used to do amazing, complicated stunts about 10 years ago. Cheerleaders weighing about 95 pounds would get flung in the air by big bulky guys, do about three backflips and fall safely into the arms of 2-3 teammates. They stopped in recent years, basically going no higher than standing on the outstretched arms of their male teammates. It's not quite as cool looking, but you also don't tense up when they're on their way down.
Is that how it should be? Or should we chalk up these injuries (some very serious) to being part of the sport?
The American Heritage Dictionary defines sport as, ���Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.��� I realize cheerleading isn���t as fast-paced as basketball or hard-hitting as football, but I do contend that it falls within the definition of what constitutes a sport.
If more states recognized cheerleading as a high school sport, perhaps they would receive more funding, better-trained coaches, and the resources squads need to become more competitive.
Thirty girls signed up for the cheerleading squad this winter at Whitney Point High School in upstate New York. But upon learning they would be waving their pompoms for the girls��� basketball team as well as the boys���, more than half of the aspiring cheerleaders dropped out.
The eight remaining cheerleaders now adjust their routines for whichever team is playing here on the home court to comply with a new ruling from federal education officials interpreting Title IX, the law intended to guarantee gender equality in student sports.
This is another example of how amateur athletics can teach us more about courage and dedication than any professional sport can.
Kristi Yamaoka, a cheerleader for Southern Illinois University, was injured while performing a routine during a game against Bradley on Sunday. She suffered a chipped neck vertebrae as well as a concussion when she lost her balance and fell 15 feet to the floor while landing on her head.
Despite being strapped down to a gurney and unable to move her lower extremities Yamaoka calmed the worried 14,000 in attendance by continuing to cheer with her arms while the school band played the fight song.