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August 15, 2008
Not long ago, my colleague (and former gymnast) Lindsay Lyon wrote about the dangers of gymnastics, a sport that's responsible for sending hundreds of kids to the emergency room each year. Well, Lindsay, I've got you beat. This week, the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research released a study announcing that my former sport, cheerleading, is the most dangerous, accounting for 65.1 percent of all catastrophic sports injuries among high school girls in the past 25 years.
Cheerleading, a sport? If you've seen competitive cheerleading recently, you would have no doubt in your mind that these girls (and guys) are every bit the athlete—and carry much more of the risk for devastating injury. What started out as a pre-feminist rah-rah pep club has turned into a competitive blend of gymnastics, dance, weightlifting, and Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics. Cheerleaders don't date the captains of football teams anymore—they're too busy weight training, so they can throw their teammates into the air for a double backflip.