Thursday, March 10, 2011

We've got spirit, how bout you?

Cheerleading most dangerous sport

Cheerleading was at the center of Laura Jackson’s life since she began shaking pom-poms for a pee-wee football team in the third grade.

At 14, she dreamed of cheering in high school and then, maybe college. But on the day of tryouts for the freshman high school squad in Livonia, Mich., those plans were shattered.

That afternoon, as her turn arrived, she got ready to perform a back tuck, a challenging gymnastics move she’d learned just for tryouts. She eyed her spotter, a girl just three years older than herself, and took a running start across the gymnasium floor before launching into the flip.

She still doesn’t know quite what went wrong, but she didn’t make it all the way around; she smacked her neck against the ground, skidding so hard that a piece of her blond ponytail ripped from her scalp.

No one in the room realized how grave her injury was.

Her older sister, Jenna Jackson, also a cheerleader, says she watched the cheer coach and other teachers try to figure out what to do as Laura gasped for air, her face turning blue as she mouthed over and over, “Can’t breathe.”

Laura had broken her top two vertebrae in her neck, and the crushed bones kept pinching her brain stem, which made her heart stop and start, stop and start. And while several people in the gymnasium that day knew CPR, no one knew that it was something Laura desperately needed in that moment. “They thought because my heart was beating, I was OK,” Laura recalls.

Instead, she’s now a quadriplegic, unable to move a muscle from the neck down.

Cheerleading — not basketball, not softball, not even field hockey or ice hockey — is by far the most dangerous sport for girls . Cheer accounts for 65 percent of all catastrophic injuries in girls’ high school athletics, shows a recent report by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina.


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