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Cheerleading poses risks to New Jersey students

Noting how high school cheerleading has evolved over the past 30 years, pediatricians recently suggested that schools and other organizations should treat the activity as a formal sport and impose requirements like mandatory physicals and conditioning.

Doctors point to the fact that high school cheerleading, as recently as the 1980s, mostly involved rallying a crowd of sports with a few cheers and maybe a jump or two. Now, routines are much more acrobatic, which means a cheerleader faces higher potential for a spinal cord injury or other debilitating injury.

Teenage girls in New Jersey who cheer competitively have seen their share of injuries. Recently, two sisters from Mahwah seriously injured the tendons in their knees while cheering. They both had to have surgery and undergo extensive rehabilitation before being able to cheer again.

These two girls were lucky to recover- many cheerleaders receive permanent injuries from cheering. Experts say that while female cheerleaders generally sustain fewer injuries than girls participating in other sports, their injuries tend to be more serious when they do get hurt. Girls are more likely to suffer paralysis and permanent disability through cheering than they are by participating in any other sport.

Hopefully, schools and other organizations that sponsor cheerleading will recognize the risks involved and improve safety standards. In New Jersey, these organizations already have a duty to keep the kids in their care safe while they enjoy cheerleading. If they fail to do so, the families of injured students may elect to file a lawsuit for compensation. Though a lawsuit cannot turn back the clock on a debilitating sports injury, it can ease the financial burden that such an injury often carries.

Source: The Gleaner, "Docs: Safety rules should be applied to cheerleading," Lindsey Tanner, Oct. 24, 2012

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