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Doctors To Vote On Whether Cheerleading Is A Sport

University of Louisville cheerleaders hurled into the air during the first half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game against Wichita State in April.
Charlie Neibergall

This weekend the American Medical Association will kick off its annual exercise in medical democracy.

The group's House of Delegates will meet in Chicago to vote on resolutions that range from a demand that private insurers pay doctors at least as much as Medicare does to a call for federal legislation affirming the right of doctors to talk about gun safety with patients.

Oh, and one other thing, the Illinois delegation is putting forward a resolution asking the AMA to "support the designation of cheerleading as a sport."

Yep, you read that right. And the health logic is pretty straightforward, actually.

Cheerleading has become a competitive activity in its own right, and there's a considerable risk of serious injury, including concussion, spinal damage and broken bones.

So it ought to get the same attention to health consequences as other sports, including the training of coaches to minimize injury risks for cheerleaders, proponents say.

A 2011 report from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research found that "high school and college cheerleaders account for approximately two-thirds of the catastrophic injuries to female athletes."

The NCAA hasn't recognized cheerleading as a competitive sport. Last August, a federal appeals court ruled that Quinnipiac College in Connecticut couldn't count cheerleading as a sport under Title IX as way to offset disbanding women's volleyball.

If the AMA delegates go along with the proposal, they'll be following in the footsteps of the pediatricians. Last October, The American Academy of Pediatrics called for more attention to cheerleading injuries and giving the go-ahead to the sports label.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Hensley edits stories about health, biomedical research and pharmaceuticals for NPR's Science desk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has led the desk's reporting on the development of vaccines against the coronavirus.
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