It's not soccer, or gymnastics, or lacrosse, even with its aggressive stick maneuvers and fast flying balls. It's cheerleading. Cheerleading caused the highest number of catastrophic injuries in girls, accounting for 65% of direct catastrophic injuries of high school girls and 70.8% of college level women. These numbers are from a study taken done between 1982 and 2009.
Concussions and traumatic brain injuries in football has sparked a national awareness about athlete injuries and changes to the sport's regulations. The same awareness has not been considered for our nation's girls. One of the major problems is that some schools and school districts do not consider cheerleading a sport. But cheerleading has evolved over the past two decades from waving pom poms and shouting cheers on the sidelines to high flying acrobatics, tumbling, and towering pyramids. Because cheerleading isn't fully recognized as a sport, the right coaching and safety techniques are not applied.
The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA) are now making every effort possible to have cheerleading officially recognized as a sport nationwide. The AACCA also has programs to improve coaching, improve the sport's regulations, and outlaw certain risky aerial maneuvers. Once cheerleading is fully recognized as a sport, many girls will no longer have to practice in hard tiled hallways or asphalt parking lots. They will be given the proper space to practice, normally allotted to recognized sports teams, which will be equipped with the padded mats necessary for safety. The AACCA is also pushing for all cheerleading squads to have access to an athletic trainer and for every squad to implement an emergency plan in case of a catastrophic injury. So, when you're on the sidelines this Fall take note of the athleticism of the sport of cheerleading, and help your fellow spectators understand how this sport has evolved and why the safety requirements need to evolve with it.