American Academy of Pediatrics pushes for tighter cheerleading rules

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More than 3 million American girls are involved in cheerleading. The American Academy of Pediatrics says about 26,000 of them are injured each year.

Although it's been the subject of heated debate, technically cheerleading is not considered a sport. The nation's leading group of pediatricians wants to change that in order to make it safer.

Cheerleading isn't just kicks and pom-poms on the sideline anymore. It's evolved into elaborate gymnastics tumbles and sometime dangerous lifts.

A new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics finds cheerleaders are getting injured more often and more severely.

Last year, there were almost 37,000 emergency room visits for cheerleading injuries among girls aged 6 to 22, according to data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That's more than four times higher than in 1980, when cheering was tamer.

The academy recommends more training for coaches and that cheerleading be a considered a sport. Doctors say when an activity is sanctioned as a school sport, athletes have easier access to trainers or the team physician at the practice facility. While some athletic directors see the good in the recommendations, they see challenges in moving forward.

"It's a good idea, but it's gonna be very hard I think to find coaches to meet those requirements at the high school level, at least at all high schools," said Aaron Curl, high school athletic director.

Indiana does not recognize cheering as a sport, but 29 states across the country do.