Cheerleading is not a sport. At least, that’s what the researchers of North Carolina’s National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research have implied in a recent study. This isn’t to say that they have ignored the facts. On the contrary, NCCIR is not in the business of determining what is and is not a sport. What they do is provide an account of any such activity that leads to catastrophic injury. And according to their 25th Annual Report, no female athletes are more severely injured from any other activity more than cheerleading.
More than half of all catastrophic and even more minor female injuries are due to cheerleading accidents. Acknowledged in the report is that cheerleading has really come a long way since its original inception. What was once a few high kicks and chants has now become an acrobatic powerhouse of visual, gymnastic performance requiring the most rigorous of training and athletic endurance. Cheerleaders don’t just stick to the sidelines anymore. On the contrary, squads now compete against one another to determine who has the most visually creative cheer.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a sport is ‘any physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively’. This last word is key. To go for a 3-mile run outside by yourself would be deemed nothing more than an extracurricular activity unless you have chosen to make that run against a competitor with specified rules in place. In the case of cheerleading, this is a little more tricky. When cheerleaders stick to the sidelines in support of a basketball or football team, they are not competing against the cheerleaders on the other side of the field or court. However, when cheerleaders come to center stage to perform for a set of judges who will make an objective assessment of their skills over another squad, then technically, they are participating in an athletic sport.
Part 2 will address some of the various injuries that come with cheerleading in America along with a few strategies on preventing future injuries of a catastrophic nature.