Saturday, October 17, 2009

Risks of Cheerleading

Paramedics were called, but by the time they got her heart restarted, her brain had been deprived of oxygen for too long and she was in a coma. Experts say she may have been inadvertently struck in the chest on her descent from the stunt.
Patty Phommanyvong

Confined to a nursing home, Phommanyvong, now 19, can't eat or speak. She communicates by blinking her eyes.

Her father, Say, a Laotian immigrant, said: "I didn't know that they were throwing her up in the air. That's for professionals. Why would the school allow that?"

Variations of Patty's story are all too familiar among cheerleaders. While her tragic circumstance wasn't because of anyone's mistake, there are many examples of even more experienced cheerleaders being seriously hurt in spectacular spills.

Jessica Smith of Sacramento City College broke her neck when she fell headfirst about 15 feet in 2006; Rechelle Sneath, a cheerleader for San Jose State, fell while practicing in 2004 and is paralyzed from the waist down. Yet daredevil stunts are routinely performed at youth, high school and college sporting events across the country.

And, according to experts and reporting by The Times, these stunts are often done without proper safety precautions or supervision.


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