Gone, mostly, are the days when people still believed that cheerleading is as much a "sport" as the Miss America pageant is a "scholarship competition." Yet -- occasional reports of freak accidents notwithstanding -- some may still think that the biggest dangers presented by cheerleading are eating disorders and airheadedness.
But if you read this giant feature in the Boston Globe, you'll find that "injuries for high school and college cheerleaders have more than doubled since the early 1990s ... with the estimated number of emergency-room visits spiking from fewer than 12,000 in 1991 to about 28,000 in 2004." The article continues: "And no other sport comes within shouting distance of cheerleading in terms of major injuries, such as spinal and head trauma ... Of the 101 catastrophic injuries sustained by female high school and college athletes between 1982 and 2004, 55 percent resulted from cheerleading -- more than every other sport combined."
As Dr. Frederick Mueller, director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, told the Globe: 'There's no doubt that [cheerleading] is the most dangerous women's sport.'"
Some say cheerleading is the most dangerous sport, period. As the Globe notes: "Recent statistics from the National Collegiate Athletic Association suggest that it may be even riskier than football, the sport it was created to support."
What does that spell? IRONY!
"Last year," the Globe explains, "the NCAA's Catastrophic Injury Insurance Program found that 25 percent of its claims for college student-athletes since 1998 have resulted from cheerleading. '[That is] second only to football, and football was not that far ahead of it,' says Juanita Sheely, NCAA travel and insurance manager. When you consider the ratio of college cheerleaders to football players -- about 12 to 100, estimates Sheely -- that 25 percent figure is shocking."
How did we come to this? "After many high schools across the country slashed their gymnastics programs in the 1980s for liability reasons, sidelined gymnasts joined the cheerleading squads, forcing the traditional cheerleaders to up their gymnastic skills just to make the team," says the Globe. And as the skill level skyrocketed, so did the injury rate.
Sheesh. I don't know about you, but I'm sending my kid to roller derby.