Cheerleading: As “Sport” as it Gets
Contrary to popular belief, cheerleading takes a lot of skill, practice and team unity. Would you be able to stand on the shoulders of girl, and bear the weight of another on your own? Don’t feel too bad - not just anyone can. In fact, it requires extensive practice, precise technique, and incredible athleticism to pull off stunts like these safely.
The official definition of a sport is this: “An activity governed by a set of rules, involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others.” (Webster) By definition alone, competitive cheerleading is a sport. But does that alone give it the respect it deserves? If we look at the collective opinions of average people, the answer is no.
A professional cheer practice entails a great deal of tumbling, jumping (high, and while doing things like the splits), flipping, balancing, falling, spinning (in the air), and catching. Collectively, we can just refer to all of these as stunting, but now we have an image of what that looks like, specifically. It goes without saying that performing such stunts is very dangerous, but most people don’t realize how dangerous. “Approximately 25,000 cheerleaders ended up in the emergency room in 2007, and the number does continually rise.” (Delp) This is a shocking amount, but don’t panic too much; researchers at LiveScience state, “Less than catastrophic injuries are vastly more common and they occur at much younger ages, too. Children ages 5 to 18 admitted to hospitals for cheerleading injuries in the United States jumped from 10,900 in 1990 to 22,900 in 2002.” We must also keep in mind that many cheerleaders cheer at games over the weekend or in the evenings when primary care physicians are not open. If a girl twists an ankle, the only option is the emergency room. This kind of treatment, although necessary, inflates the reality of the types of emergency room visits that are being made. (Delp) So we can rest easy knowing that cheerleaders are not paralyzing themselves left and right, but what is more common among cheerleaders are sprains and dislocations. However, serious head injuries do occur; approximately 3.5% of said accidents are serious and leave lasting damage. (LiveScience) Having said that, the danger alone tells us that cheerleading is nothing to take lightly.
Now that we see cheerleading to be just as jeopardous as football or basketball (perhaps even more so), we may examine the physical requirements and athleticism that being a cheerleader calls for. LiveStrong article by Luann Voza goes into full detail: Stunting requires two to four squad members -- known as bases and spotters -- to physically lift another squad member, known as the flyer. When performing extended stunts, the bases and spotters hold the flyer overhead with their arms extended. When performing tosses, the bases and spotters propel the flyer into the air. While tumbling, your arms and legs push off of the floor to propel your body into the air. Jumping uses lower body strength to push down and drive your body into the air. Training to perfect these skills improves the ability of your muscles to exert force, resulting in increased strength and endurance gains. Flexibility, the range of motion -- or the distance -- reached through a joint, is a key component of cheerleading. Skills such as jumping and kicking require high levels of flexibility in the hips. Stretching exercises involve muscle and connective tissue elongation. Achieving improved flexibility improves the height of jumps and kicks. Flyers require high amounts of flexibility to perform stunts such as heel stretches and arabesques. Cardio fitness is classified as anaerobic and aerobic energy production, requiring your heart and lungs to supply blood and oxygen to sustain an activity. Cheerleading training improves both. Aerobic training involves elevating your heart rate and respiration while using...
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