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Experts say cheerleaders face same dangers as other athletes

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the United States saw nearly 37,000 cheerleading-related emergency room visits in 2011, over four times the number of similar visits in 1980. Many experts say that cheerleading has increasingly become more athletically intense and should thus be regulated like other sports in order to improve safety for participants, which regularly face serious injury.

While some counties do indeed recognize cheerleading as a sport, North Carolina state law allows each district to establish its own polices regarding its classification. Schools that categorize cheerleading as an activity generally do not enforce the safety rules that other sports must follow, which require them to have maximum practice time, more qualified coaches, regular physical exams and athletic trainers.

Competitive cheerleaders often face serious injury to their arms, legs, heads and necks. The increasing danger involved in cheerleading has led the American Academy of Pediatrics and many other medical bodies to call for the designation of cheerleading as a recognized sport. "Not everyone is fully aware of how cheerleading has evolved over the last couple of decades. It used to be just standing on the sidelines and doing cheers and maybe a few jumps" one sports medicine doctor explained to media. While high school cheerleaders experience less overall injury than girls who participate in soccer, gymnastics and other sports, their rate of severe spine and skull injuries are significantly higher.

The American Academy of Pediatrics have proposed a policy that would create a uniform set of safety regulations that mirror many rules currently enforced by some colleges and high schools. The policy would discourage squads from incorporating tosses and tumbling into their routines when on hard surfaces, prohibit human pyramids of more than two people and implement other similar rules. Experts hope the policy will help prove that cheerleaders face many of the same risks as other athletes.

Source: MyFOX8.com, "Should cheerleading be considered a sport?," Scott Gustin and Brent Campbell, Oct. 22, 2012

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