Cheering for Cheerleading to be Classified as a Sport
Add the American Medical Association to the growing list of prominent medical groups advocating for cheerleading to be formally classified as a sport.
This policy adoption at the annual AMA meeting this week in Chicago recognizes the rigors and risks of cheerleading to be as demanding as many other high school and collegiate level sports. The AMA statements reinforces the findings of a well-documented American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness Policy Statement that describes the epidemiology of cheerleading injuries and provides sensible recommendations for injury prevention. (Full disclosure: I was on the committee that reviewed this paper and approved the findings and recommendations).
As a sports medicine professional who sees a fair number of bases, flyers, spotters, and tumblers, the designation of cheerleading as a sport would have a multitude of benefits:
- Cheerleaders would have better and essential access to certified athletic trainers (ATC) for injury prevention and evaluation along with assistance in return to activity progression. Deciding how to return any athlete or performer can be a difficult and individualized concern, but doing it without an on-site medical professional such as the school-based ATC is even more overwhelming.
- Requiring cheerleaders to have pre-participation athletic screening exams affords the opportunity to identify medical and orthopedic concerns and develop comprehensive management plans before these issues become major problems. A timely pre-participation exam could tag team with starting an appropriate strength and conditioning program focusing on common shoulder, back, wrist, knee, and ankle issues.
- A sport designation would hopefully lead to safer facilities including use of mats and not inappropriate types of flooring, higher ceilings, and institution of emergency action plans in the event of injury.
- Encouraging coaches to follow rules for execution of technical skills set forth by national cheerleading governing bodies
- Including cheerleading injuries in national injury monitoring programs to increase information on the type, frequency, and severity of cheerleading-specific injuries at the high school and collegiate levels.
Today's cheerleaders often start well before high school and participate on competitive cheer teams in addition (or in many cases, in place of) to cheering for particular schools and teams. The high level of skill and training asked of these performers places them at risk for both acute and overuse injuries often at similar levels to contadt or collision sport athletes. Denying cheerleaders the right to appropriate medical care and supervision only increases the chance for catastrophic outcomes.
That would be something no one would cheer about...