University of Florida (UF) cheerleaders will no longer be allowed to perform aerial stunts or tumbles during football games. UF administrators say the decision was not made lightly but the timing is interesting.
Three days before the announcement was made in November, a cheerleader for the Orlando Magic fell off a teammate’s shoulders and crashed to the floor, breaking a rib and fracturing three vertebrae.
In October, a study released by the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) found cheerleaders suffered a disproportionally high number of skull fractures, spine injuries, and catastrophic injuries. The AAP’s recommendation was that cheerleaders be treated like other athletes and cheerleading should be designated a sport. That would require high schools and colleges to follow the rules set by a sport governing body.
In addition, to keep the sport safer, the AAP recommends participants need to receive physicals in advance of the season and coaches need to be trained on spotting gymnastics stunts.
Twenty-nine states already treat high school cheerleading as a sport, reports the Wall Street Journal. There about approximately 400,000 primarily girls who participate in high school cheering in the U.S.
Not all high school cheerleading involves tumbling but as cheerleading has become more athletic, involving aerial moves and pyramid formations, hospital visits have jumped 400 percent from 1980 to 2007.
The University of Florida Athletic Association confirmed the school was taking action, “a proactive stance to protect cheerleaders, who represent the University of Florida with enthusiasm and class, and allow them to lead cheers at Gator games for years to come.”
The cheerleaders are not too happy about the decision and have been expressing their attitudes about the decision on social media. Many feel the accident could have been prevented largely because, in this case, there was no spotter behind the cheerleader who fell.
The American Association of Cheer Coaches and Administrators has a strict set of guidelines that profession and competitive cheerleading teams are supposed to follow.