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Should Cheerleading be a Sport?

Cheerleading accounts for the majority of catastrophic injuries to female high school and college athletes.

Photo courtesy of American Academy of Pediatrics.

The American Medical Association has announced that cheerleading should be considered a sport to help mitigate the risk of injury. The tricks and stunts performed by competitive cheer squads have become more extreme in recent years and cheerleading is now the leading cause of catastrophic injuries for female high school and college athletes.

“These girls are flipping 10, 20 feet in the air,” said Samantha Rosman, a Boston-area pediatrician. “We need to stand up for what is right for our patients and demand they get the same protection as their football colleagues.”

So why classify cheerleading as a sport? The American Academy of Pediatrics offered the following explanation when it designated cheerleading as a sport in 2012:

“[B]eing classified as a sport affords valuable safety resources and regulations, such as qualified coaches, adequate and well-maintained practice facilities, preseason conditioning, access to certified trainers and team physicians, and mandated pre-participation physical examinations.”

Research published in the Journal of Pediatrics indicates hospital emergency visits by cheerleaders have increased sharply, from just 4,954 in 1980 to more than 26,000 in 2007. The most common injuries include sprains and strains, cuts and bruises, fractured and dislocated bones, and head injures – including concussions.

If adopted by state and other sports governing bodies, the designation would require the creation of safety standards, such as proper training and equipment, spotters, and safer surfaces for pyramids and partner stunts. Cheerleaders showing signs of a head injury would be removed from practice or competition and not allowed to return without a doctor’s approval. Currently, 35 states and Washington D.C. have declared cheerleading a sport at the high school level.



AMA officially designates cheerleading a sport” by Lindsey Tanner, Associated Press/USA Today, June 10, 2014.

“Cheerleading Injuries: Epidemiology and Recommendations for Prevention.” Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Pediatrics 2012;130;966; originally published online October 22, 2012; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-2480.