The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

November 26, 2012

Cheering calls to boost sport’s oversight

— Our region long has appreciated the skill sets and athleticism demonstrated by cheerleaders and cheerleading squads.

For many years, Johnstown and now Indiana have served as hosts for highly regarded contests drawing cheerleaders statewide, from peewee to high school age.

Some of our schools and clubs have even brought home awards from national competitions as far away as Orlando, Fla.

Through this, we’ve also become aware of the increasing risks of injury faced by the participants. Common stunts that pose risks include tossing and flipping cheerleaders in the air and creating human pyramids that reach 15 feet high or more.

We join the growing chorus of supporters, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, calling for more oversight of an activity that certainly has far surpassed chanting cheers, jumping and waving pompoms.

As reported last week by The Associated Press, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a policy statement released in the journal Pediatrics, says school sports associations should designate cheerleading as a sport, and make it subject to safety rules and better supervision. That would include on-site athletic trainers, limits on practice time and better qualified coaches.

We recognize that, unfortunately, some of these proposals come with a price tag in a time when many schools’ extracurricular activities have been facing financial difficulties. Many athletic activities are even being eliminated in the face of waning financial support.

Last year, there were almost 37,000 emergency room visits for cheerleading injuries among girls and young women aged 6 to 22, according to data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s more than four times higher than in 1980, when cheerleading was tamer. Those statistics alone show the need for more oversight and study.

Those kind of statistics, too, should change the minds of those who still contend that cheerleading isn’t a sport.

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