When I was a good Mormon boy, I had some high school stoner friends who loved my Scooby Doo-style van and used to rant about how football was waaaay more dangerous than weed and skateboarding. They used to say: Why do the jocks get to do their thing but we can't do ours?
They'd be even happier -- or more outraged -- to know that cheerleading is probably more dangerous, too. According to MSNBC:
"Cheerleading -- not basketball, not softball, not even field hockey or ice hockey -- is by far the most dangerous sport for girls."
The danger comes not in the "cheering" (though if you shout uh, uh-gowa, panther power! one too many times it can strain your throat and gut), it comes from the acrobatics they call "stunting." Much of it is done without the precautions taken with sports.
It appears things are getting safer as it comes to be treated more like a sport.
As Torie Bosch points out in Slate, USA Gymnastics is now sanctioning events held by the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association. Seems the gymnastic folks are embracing cheerleading since so few schools do gymnastics anymore (too dangerous!). This could eventually lead to the mighty NCAA itself embracing cheerleading on more than just its football sidelines. That means better safety precautions, better insurance, and more medical monitoring.
Of course the angry young man in me thinks this is just institutionalizing a dumb, dated phenomenon that makes women subservient (and that's not because the cheerleaders wouldn't date me in high school. Well, not entirely.).
But maybe the danger: the acrobatics, the athleticism, just means I should respect it more.
I had to soften my stance on cheerleading after I returned to teach at my high school briefly a few years ago. I was surprised to find that the majority -- really the overwhelming majority -- of cheerleaders were also athletes themselves. After cheerleading practice they went to softball and volleyball and soccer games -- where sadly no one was dressed up and cheering for them.
This was an awesome development for both cheerleaders and girl jocks, who when I was young wouldn't have been caught dead sitting on the same patch of grass in the quad at lunch. Now they're mostly the same people.
Oh and did you know that no one ever uses the words cheerleading or cheerleader anymore? At least not in my corner of Southern California. Girls say they are "in cheer" when they speak of their status, or they say they have "cheer practice."
Hear that, makers of Glee? Your otherwise totally realistic show has a glitch!
Are you worried about your child cheerleading?
Image via MichaelOh/Flickr