A group of pediatricians have joined forces to recommend that cheerleading be designated as an official sport in the hopes of better preventing serious injuries. “We felt that there needed to be guidelines out there on how to make it safer for these girls,” said co-author Cynthia LaBella. The American Academy of Pediatrics made several recommendations for how to make cheerleading safer including required physicals, the provision of strength and conditioning coaches and removal from competition of anyone suffering a head injury. According to the latest research there are more than 3 and a half million girls in America who participate in cheerleading every year and that number is still growing. While cheerleading accounts for fewer injuries than many other sports such as gymnastics and soccer it has a disproportionately high risk for very serious injuries like spine injuries and skull fractures. LaBella went on to say that “In many states and at the college level, cheerleading isn’t officially recognized as a sport. And because of that there are quite a few safety mechanisms the miss out on.” Pediatricians are hoping that access to better facilities, trainers and coaches and medical care will make the sport safer for young women. While these recommendations seem clear enough on the surface they have raised some objections from American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators. According to the director of the AACCA, Jim Lord, his group has long recommended many of the changes be promoted by the Academy of Pediatrics but he disagrees when it comes to reclassifying the cheerleading as a sport. For starters many states require that sports participants compete on a regular basis and many cheerleading squads compete infrequently if at all. The AAP is also recommending foam or spring floors which Lords points out could interfere with balance and ultimately lead to a greater risk of injury. Whatever the disagreements are at this point everyone is in agreement that the safety of the cheerleaders needs to be at the forefront when it comes to changing participation policies.
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