Four years ago, a federal judge ruled that competitive cheerleading is not an official sport that colleges can use to meet gender-equity requirements, the Associated Press reported at the time. In 2012, a federal appeals court affirmed that ruling.
The American Medical Association disagrees in hopes that cheerleaders receive added safety measures and training.
The American Medical Association says cheerleading should be considered a sport because of its rigors and risks.
The nation’s largest doctors’ group adopted that as policy Monday at its annual meeting in Chicago. AMA members say cheerleading is as rigorous as many other activities that high schools and the NCAA consider sports. Adding it to the list would mean more safety measures for cheerleaders and proper training for their coaches.
Cheerleading is a leading cause of catastrophic injury in female athletes at the high school and college level, Dr. Samantha Rosman, a Boston-area pediatrician, told AMA delegates during floor debate before the vote.
“These girls are flipping 10, 20 feet in the air,” Rosman said. “We need to stand up for what is right for our patients and demand they get the same protection as their football colleagues.”
The new policy means the AMA supports having appropriate accrediting bodies declare cheerleading a sport, and supports better safety measures including avoiding inappropriate surfaces when performing flips and other stunts and following rules for properly performing stunts.
In 2010, the NCAA received competing proposals from two governing bodies asking that certain forms of cheerleading be classified as “emerging sports for women,” a designation just below championship status “that is intended to help schools provide more athletics opportunities for women, more sport sponsorship options for institutions and help that sport achieve NCAA championship status.” USA Cheerleading advocated for the addition of stunt, while USA Gymnastics pushed for acrobatics and tumbling to be added. In 2011, the NCAA advised both groups to combine their efforts and submit a single proposal.
“In order for a sport to be considered for the NCAA Emerging Sports for Women list, 20 or more varsity teams and/or competitive club teams must currently exist on college campuses and the sport organization must submit a detailed proposal including possible general competition rules, suggested NCAA regulations (such as playing and practice seasons, recruiting and financial aid) and the sport format,” the NCAA wrote at the time. The sports must gain championship status within 10 years or show steady progress toward that goal to remain on the list, per NCAA bylaws.
Cheerleading currently is not listed as an emerging sport on the NCAA Web site.