Just as male athletes have gotten bigger, cheerleading maneuvers have gotten increasingly acrobatic. To the point that many are essentially gymnasts- minus regulatory benefits that come with being a gymnast.
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons stated in 2010 that close to 90% of most serious fall-related injuries in cheerleading were sustained performing on artificial turf, grass, traditional foam floors or wood floors. Not exactly safe landing areas if you're going to be catapulted into the air at accelerated speeds.
Yet for all of the discussion about concussions in contact sports, one comparatively hears little about the risks in cheerleading. One possible reason this garners little discussion is that regulation might blur the masculine-feminine divide of which it is a part.
There have been calls to regulate cheerleading, perhaps most controversially to count it as sport in the NCAA (which, in turn, would qualify it as a possibility for schools to meet Title IX). Proponents maintain that NCAA athletes receive stricter safety oversights than your average "club" activity. If cheerleading squads on the high school and college level compete against other squads regardless, why not open that door?
Many are reluctant to do this, believing it rewards subsidiary roles for women cheering men on. For however many competitions cheerleaders may have, their descriptive function is to “lead” the “cheers” for the men who are presumably doing the “real” competing. Interestingly, Jackson’s sister (also a former cheerleader) is not shown lamenting the fact that her sister can no longer compete, but instead lamenting that her social life, that cheerleading presumably helps bring, has been taken away.
Images of professional cheerleading are decidedly “heterosexy,” stressing traditional femininity and de-emphasizing acrobatics. In fiduciary terms, cheerleading rewards traditional feminine beauty moreso than raw athleticism (think swimsuit calendars and a more dance-oriented pro cheerleading style).
Acknowledging the increase in concussions and other injuries that high school and college cheerleaders are experiencing disrupts that narrative and forces us to engage in the traditionally masculine idea of risk. It might also help slow a disturbing trend of concussions, fractures and other disastrous outcomes.