What's the biggest danger to high school athletes?

Competitive cheerleading has exploded in popularity, with modern high school cheerleaders taking on tasks that combine gymnastics and dance in ways that their pom-pom waving predecessors couldn't imagine.

Their predecessors probably also couldn't imagine the sheer number and magnitude of the injuries being suffered by today's cheerleaders -- an issue that's finally attracting more attention.

While cheerleading itself has seen a 70 percent increase in popularity over the last two decades, emergency room visits by cheerleaders have risen 189 percent in the same period of time. Although the current figures are unknown, records from 2012 indicate that more than 100 cheerleaders a day end up visiting the hospital due to injuries from their sport.

That's far too many young people risking severe, if not catastrophic, injuries for anyone's comfort. As a result, the Spirit Rules Committee -- the national group that sets the guidelines that competitive cheerleaders use -- has made some sweeping changes to the rules in order to reduce the chances of an injury happening.

Many of the changes concern the top person in a cheering pyramid. If that cheerleader falls, she and her teammates are all in danger of serious injury. Depending on how the cheerleader falls, she can end up hitting the ground or hitting a teammate -- either way, someone can end up suffering a spinal injury, broken bones, neck injuries and more.

Other rules are aimed at reducing the risk from props -- cheerleaders will be banned from holding a prop while tumbling unless they're on the playing surface.

Just the same, competitive cheerleaders may still feel the pressure to find new and impressive stunts that will stun their audiences -- and coaches may have winning in mind more than they do safety.

If your child suffered catastrophic injuries to her brain, neck, spine or bones in a cheerleading accident, it's important to discuss the possibility of a lawsuit with an attorney. If the coach negligently allowed a stunt that was clearly too difficult or dangerous, the school may be held responsible -- and your child may need the compensation in order to have a more secure future.

Source: NYPOST.com, "US Group aims to decrease cheerleading injuries," Post Staff Report, April 24, 2017

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