It is a rite and tradition. Each fall Friday night in Texas, thousands of high school students suit up for football games. Young kids proudly pull on their pants, shoulder pads and helmets and line up to fight and bloody one another. But far too frequently, the athletes bloodied up aren’t the players, but the cheerleaders cheering them on.
Today’s Dallas Morning News reported that cheerleading now accounts for two-thirds of all serious injuries among high school female athletes. Unfortunately, in Texas, we’re not sure just how extensive those injuries are:
Once known simply for shaking pom-poms and smiling beauties under Friday night lights, the extra-curricular activity has transformed into an athletic feat featuring supersonic tosses and complex flips. But unlike certified sports, state regulations have not kept up.
No monitoring system or organization totals injury reports, slaps fines on violators or tracks participation rates in most states, including Texas. Meanwhile, stunts have become more sophisticated and interest continues to peak.
The article reports that the problem seems to be two-fold. Cheerleaders are becoming better trained. Like other sports, cheerleaders now attend more and more camps and devote substantial time to learning their craft. The reward is the ability to do more difficult, and more dangerous, stunts. Unfortunately, the skills of the current crop of cheerleaders are quickly outpacing the knowledge of the local high school leaders. This results in the much of the oversight and teaching to be left in the hands of the cheerleading team and not the cheerleading coach.
What can we do to protect these students? The article makes several suggestions, but most boil down to more parental involvement. Parents should make sure that the coach is certified through an accredited safety program; parents should make sure that the coach follows accepted safety guidelines; parents should make sure that the squad has an emergency plan in place.
Our kids are way too precious and important to take these suggestions lightly.
For more on this, see my previous post: More Bad Personal Injury News for Texas–The Dangers of Cheerleading.