The State of New York is ready to join 34 other states in making cheerleading an official interscholastic sport. That would put cheerleading right up there with football, baseball, and soccer. What does the new status mean exactly? Rules, mostly — and safety standards for coaches like concussion management training. Although the overall injury rate is low for cheerleaders, when one occurs it tends to be severe: cheerleading accounts for nearly 65% of all catastrophic injuries in girls’ high school athletics, and 67% of female catastrophic injuries at the college level. You can break your leg playing soccer, but falling from the top of a giant human pyramid is more likely to cause brain damage. And injuries are increasing in number as well as severity, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
New York schools won’t be required to have their cheerleading teams join interscholastic competitions. Schools can opt to stay traditional and simply cheer at the games — but they wouldn’t be allowed to perform the most daring stunts.
Mercer Island High School cheerleaders at the school’s Winter Assembly in 2005.