Cheerleaders used to do little more than shake pom-poms and make up chants to raise the level of excitement for the crowd during lulls in a football game.
Gradually, the stunts cheerleaders performed became their own show, and cheerleading has now evolved into a dangerous athletic activity for many of the young women involved.
Perhaps not too surprisingly, cheerleading was once a masculine activity that started out in upscale schools. Women didn't start taking over the role until the same time they were pushed into many other traditionally-masculine roles. This change happened in the 1940s during World War II when there weren't enough young men around to fill all the available positions.
Now, cheerleading has essentially two tracks. In some areas, it's still primarily designed to help amp up the crowd's energy during a sports event. In other areas, it's a sport of its own where cheerleaders compete for trophies and titles before panels of judges, using elaborate routines that require combined gymnastic, lifting and acrobatic skills.
It's this second type of cheerleading that often leads to catastrophic injuries. The stunts performed involve participants classed as "bases" and "flyers" performing lifts and throws, and each participant runs unique risks.
A flyer can be catapulted into the air and dropped, land wrong, be caught ineptly or have some other part of the stunt go wrong. These accidents can leave the flyer with permanent nerve damage, head injuries or a broken spine.
Bases aren't much safer. A flyer can land on a base and crack that cheerleader's neck, leaving the victim paralyzed from the neck down. Muscular injuries from lifting or concussions from colliding with another base or a spotter can also happen.
What's especially troubling is that there is a tremendous lack of oversight into who is training these young and ambitious cheerleaders how to perform. Many "coaches" are former cheerleaders, but they lack formal training or certification in gymnastics. Almost none of them have any training on how to recognize a serious problem like a brain injury or perform emergency care.
If your child has suffered a catastrophic cheerleading injury, talk to an attorney today. Our firm has attorneys who have experience handling difficult and complex claims and may be able to help you.