The American Academy of Pediatrics has taken on an important issue for parents, kids, coaches and schools. In a recent policy statement that made the national news, the AAP has sent an alarming message on cheerleading injuries. These include injuries sustained after athletic stunts that have increased both the number and the severity of cheerleading injuries. As an Atlanta catastrophic injury lawyer, I am pleased that the AAP has taken a leadership position on this important issue.
The AAP wants all involved in cheerleading to “follow injury-prevention guidelines, develop emergency plans and ensure cheerleading programs have access to the same level of qualified coaches, medical care and injury surveillance as other sports.”
This is a great development. Some cheerleading stunts require a high-degree of skill. WIth stunts that have kids soaring to 15 feet and more … the possibility of serious injury is something that cannot be ignored since the number of catastrophic injuries is increasing. The statement can be read at the AAP site: “Cheerleading Injuries: Epidemiology and Recommendations for Prevention,” and is published in the November issue of Pediatrics.
The reason this development is so important is that it will likely prevent serious and catastrophic injuries in some cases. Since the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) doesn’t classify cheerleading as a sport. Without this, cheerleading doesn’t provide the protections that other sports have. According to the AAP, cheerleading needs “qualified coaches, well-maintained practice facilities, access to certified athletic trainers, mandated sports physicals and surveillance of injuries.”
The statistics are startling. The numbers of cheerleaders is increasing as are the injuries which amount to about 26,000 a year. One of the more stunning statistics is that cheerleading accounts for over 65 percent of all catastrophic injuries for female athletes in the past 25 years.
“Cheerleading is one of the highest risk sporting events for direct catastrophic injuries that can result in permanent brain injury, paralysis or death.” Pyramid stunts are among the most dangerous and common cause of serious injuries.
There are a number of recommendations made by the AAP for the prevention of injuries in the sport of cheerleading: make cheerleading a sport; require pre-season physicals and coaching for strength and conditioning prior to the season; train cheerleaders to spot properly; ensure that cheerleaders show the correct level of ability to safely do stunts; perform pyramid and partner stunts on softer appropriate surfaces and never on hard, wet or uneven surfaces; allow only pyramids to be only two people high.
AAP also calls for coaches, parents and athletes to have a written emergency plan and if a cheerleader is suspected to have a head injury, to get them out of competition or practice for a medical clearance. This is similar to recent suggestions on youth sport concussion guidelines.
If you or a family member has sustained a serious or catastrophic injury, please contact me at any time for a free consultation about your situation. There is absolutely no obligation and I will provide an evaluation for you with no fee at all.