Target: National Collegiate Athletic Association
Goal: Reduce injuries to cheerleaders by improving safety standards
Despite the fact that cheerleaders experience a far smaller percentage of injuries for sporting event than other official sports, the chances for “catastrophic injuries” are actually the highest for cheerleaders. Catastrophic injuries include serious injuries to the spine and skull.
Between 1982 and 2011, 65% of the catastrophic sporting injuries that affected females in high school were experienced by cheerleaders, and an even greater 71% were experienced by college level female athletes. Although 29 states consider cheerleading a high school sport (accounting for about 400,000 cheerleaders), it is not recognized as such for college levels by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Many cite this lack of recognition, in conjunction with the higher rate of stunts performed, as the reason why cheerleaders are at greater risk of catastrophic injuries than other female athletes. Because of this, cheerleading is being pushed for to be re-categorized officially as a sport.
Doing so would allow for a number of ways in which injuries can be reduced. These include: successful completion of pre-season physicals, access to strength and conditioning coaches, removal from performances after head injuries, better facilities, and certified or more specialized coaches who are trained in gymnastics and stunts.
Some do not think that cheerleading qualifies as a sport due to a lack of direct competition. However, these opponents still agree that some change must be made that would give them greater athletic treatment as is appropriate to the level of risk taken by cheerleaders.
Petitions have been given to the NCAA for review, a process which will take three years. Regardless of whether or not cheerleading is to be officially recognized as a sport on the high school and collegiate levels, change must be made that will ensure the safety of cheerleaders for which demands have steadily been increasing. Demand that the National Collegiate Athletic Association implement immediate safety policies.
Dear National Collegiate Athletic Association,
You do not currently recognize cheerleading as a sport. Despite this, and the statistics which indicate that cheerleading results in less injuries per athletic exposure when compared to other sports; the fact remains that cheerleaders sustain a higher percentage of catastrophic injuries than do other female athletes. This is due in part to the lack of specialized athletic regulation that would come from the “sport” recognition, such as pre-season physicals, strength and condition coaches, and facilities, among other things.
You have stated that you will be reviewing petitions for three years before making any changes, noting a lack of a significant “element of competition.” Whether or not cheerleading is to be considered a sport, action must be taken to raise the standards by which their activities are regulated. Doing so immediately ensures the greater safety of all participating in cheerleading, and would significantly reduce the amount of catastrophic injuries that occur every year. Please implement new regulatory policies.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Navin Rajagopalan via Fotopedia