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Fayetteville Conference Addresses Cheerleader Safety

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Some of the country's biggest names in cheerleading spent Friday at a conference at Methodist College in Fayetteville. The topic under discussion was the physical safety of those participating in the sport.

Almost 30,000 cheerleaders end up in emergency rooms each year. Most are treated and released, but roughly two percent suffer more serious injuries, including neck and head injuries.

"This year, I had two concussions, a strained tendon in my thumb, and (a) strained tendon in my arm," said cheerleader Tiffanie Wagner.

"You know, there's always a chance of someone coming down; you know, gravity's our enemy," said Cheerleading coach Robert Webb.

The executive director of the National Council for Spirit Safety and Education, Debbie Bracewell, believes safety starts and ends with coaches. If she had her way, people would need to get certified in three areas before they could coach: first aid, CPR, and safety.

"The coach is the leader, the role model," said Bracewell. "The coach is in charge of safety."

Wagner would like more safety measures too, especially dealing with mat and spotter requirements.

"It's just like any other sport," she said. "The more you try, you have that chance of getting hurt."

Organizations like Bracewell's want to track injuries better. They're setting up a Web site for people to record when cheerleaders get hurt. That way, they can see patterns between injuries, age groups, and stunts.


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