The vision of athletic girls dressed in short skirts, cheering, and performing acrobatic moves is a common sight at athletic events in schools and at professional sporting events throughout the US. Yet, cheerleading can be a dangerous activity, leading to serious personal injuries and wrongful deaths for some of its participants.
Last year, a Newton cheerleader died after performing at the Minuteman competition in Worcester. An autopsy determined lung collapse as Lauren Chang’s cause of death after a teammate who had been thrown in the air accidentally kicked the 20-year-old’s chest. At the time of the Massachusetts cheerleading accident, the emergency medical technician was away restocking her supplies.
Also in 2008, 14-year-old Haley Kozlowski sustained a serious head injury when she performed a double maneuver in the air, fell, and hit her head on the ground. Her mother, Kim, says she was the one who had to ask for an ambulance after she arrived at the cheerleading event some 20 minutes after her daughter got hurt. While Haley has learned to walk again, she missed months of school to recover. She still experiences pain, is more anxious, and struggles with school. Kim has filed a Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit on her daughter’s behalf.
In the fall of 2008, Ruth Burns filed a Massachusetts wrongful death lawsuit against East Elite Cheer Gym. Her 14-year-old daughter, Ashley, died in 2004, when she ruptured a spleen after hitting her stomach on another cheerleader’s shoulder. Instead of getting Ashley medical attention immediately, gym coaches told her to splash water on her face and raise her arms over her head.
These Massachusetts cheerleading accidents have spurred state lawmakers to work with victims to introduce legislation to form a committee that would be charged with making cheerleading safer.
According to Dr. Robert C Cantu, Boston University School of Medicine’s clinical professor of neurosurgery, cheerleading is the most dangerous sport that women in college and high school take part in. Over 50% of serious injuries and deaths to athletes between 1982 and 2007 involved cheerleading, with fliers the ones most likely to get hurt.
Raising alarm at sport’s dangers, Boston.com, April 23, 2009
Cheerleader Death Highlights Dangers of Sport, ABC News, April 21, 2009
Lawsuit Filed Over Cheerleader’s Death, WCVB, October 21, 2008
Related Web Resources:
Cheerleading accidents may fly under the radar, KHOU, September 5, 2008
Dangers of Cheerleading, CBS News, April 22, 2004