Not Your Mother’s Cheerleaders
A reader of yesterday’s blog took me to task for my comment about competitive cheerleading. I asked why anyone would cheer for other people instead of playing the game themselves. Here’s what Allison had to say:
Competitive cheer is just that - competitive. Teams attend competitions, sometimes every weekend, around the state and country. The point is to demonstrate motion, voice, dance, tumbling, and stunting skills, and the teams are scored by judges, much like in gymnastics.
Well, I checked out the website Allison suggested, and she is right. I stand corrected. Competitive cheerleading isn’t about standing on the sidelines with pom poms while boys (or maybe girls) compete. It is much more like competitive team gymnastics.
In fact, as I did a little more research, it turns out that competitive cheerleading is considered by some to be one of the most dangerous sports for high school girls. The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injuries reports that cheerleading accounts for 65% of all catastrophic sports injuries for high school girls occurring over the last 25 years.
Both ABC and CBS did features on a study done by Brenda Shields, the Research Coordinator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus (Ohio) Children’s Hospital. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, examined 209,000 children treated in emergency rooms over 13 years. Injuries to female children from 12-17 accounted for well over half of their injuries.
Researchers noted that cheerleading has changed over the years to include much more tumbling and stunts, as my reader described. Because of the demands of the sport, doctors recommend better trained coaches, more careful training for the athletes themselves, and more supervision.
I’d be interested in knowing if schools have adopted safer practices for competitive cheerleading since the report came out in 2006. And my apologies to the kids. It’s a tough sport.