On January 9-10, a sport considered by some to be among the most dangerous in America will be coming to the Mohegan Sun Arena. While initially sports fans would think of boxing, cage fighting or bull riding, the sport is actually cheerleading.
The Spirit Festival National Cheer and Dance Championships consist of 150 teams and 3,000 participants. The last cheerleading event hosted at Mohegan Sun resulted in 68 injuries with 10 of those requiring a visit to Backus Hospital.
As cheerleading continues to grow in popularity, so has the controversy surrounding issues of safety, regulation and sport status.
A sport is best defined as having at least 50% competitive activity. Without that designation, standard medical and safety requirements are waived.
While there is no central regulatory body for cheerleading, the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA) represents over 20,000 coaches.
“The principal role of the AACCA is to serve as a risk management resource by providing educational and rules seminars, and advocating for safety at all venues,” said Jim Lord, the AACCA executive director.
Unfortunately, the AACCA has no power of enforcement.
In 2008, the Catastrophic Sports Injury Research Center cited statistics demonstrating a disproportionate number of catastrophic injuries in cheerleading when compared to other women’s sports. This led some to unfairly dub cheerleading as the “most dangerous sport in America.” The data did not consider the number of injuries in relation to the millions of participants.
Fortunately, the Mohegan Tribe has not become engaged in this legal controversy. Instead, it regards cheerleading as a sport and provides what is among the safest venues for cheerleading in the United States.
Parents must always be mindful of what systems are in place at any sports venue in the event of catastrophe. Cheerleading is no exception.