If you or a child you know has been injured in a sports accident, contact our California Cheerleader Injury Lawyers to review your rights. You or your child may be entitled to compensation for medical bills.
Cheer can involve members of a squad performing complicated movements such as flipping backwards or being thrown in the air. If these stunts are not performed correctly a cheer team member can become paralyzed or killed on the mat.
The Personal Injury Law Firm of Bisnar Chase has been aiding accident victims who have been injured at the hands of someone else’s carelessness for over 40 years. Our cheerleader injury attorneys have won over $650 million dollars in compensation for clients and continue to hold a 99% success rate when it comes to winning cases.
You or your child should not have to go without treatment for an injury that occurred as a result of negligence.
Contact our law offices today at 800-561-4887 for a free consultation.
Table of Contents
The History of Cheerleading
According to Britannica, cheerleading in the United States dates back to the 1800s. The activity initially involved only men. Male students at Ivy League universities such as Princeton were the primary cheerleaders at football games. Cheerleaders were also first referred to as “yell leaders”. As the popularization of football grew, the expansion of cheer followed. Soon schools and other colleges implemented the activity into other sporting events. Extra activities, such as the marching band, were also supplemented with cheerleading later on.
It wasn’t until the 1920s-1930s when women began cheerleading for football teams. Cheer, in its early days, was a predominately white male activity. Eventiually cheerleading became a female-dominated activity though, after many young men were called to fight in World War II. The civil rights movement in the 1960s inspired all school activities to be diversified. Years later, cheerleading programs such as summer cheer camps were formed.
Cheerleader Injury Statistics and Cases
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 65% of catastrophic injuries experienced by high school girls in the United States are due to cheerleading activities. These injuries occurred while cheer members were stunting and tumbling. Some cheerleaders though are not just left with injuries. There have been instances where young female students have lost their lives to the sport.
Lauren Chang: Twenty-year-old Lauren Chang died from being kicked in the chest while performing a dance number at a cheer contest. Cheerleader Jessica Smith shared with ABCNews that she is not surprised by Chang’s death and stated that she is shocked that these cheer moves are still being practiced. Smith said: “I just can’t believe girls are still being injured and girls are dying over cheerleading.”
Elyse Purefoy: Cheerleaders from all across the country would agree that cheerleading requires a large amount of physical conditioning. How hard can a cheerleader be pushed to the edge before their body finally gives up though? In 17-year-old Elyse Purefoy’s case, it was during a vigorous cheer workout session. Examiners stated that one of the factors that led to the teen’s death was dehydration.
Every day, young people are putting themselves at risk by performing these challenging cheer movements. The Cheerleader Injury Lawyers of Bisnar Chase believe that you should not have to pay out of pocket for your child to recover from their injuries, and must be compensated for the tragic wrongful death of your child. Contact us for free legal advice at 800-561-4887.
Requirements to Join a Cheer Squad
Cheer parents and veterans say the best age for a child to join cheer is from the ages of 3-5. Many say that introducing a child to the sport at a young age will not only rid them of stage fright but will also aid in performing difficult stunts later on.
University of Houston cheerleader and competitive cheer coach, Brittany Guarjado shared with Flocheer.com, “I’ve always felt that starting cheer at a young age is better because that’s the time when development is crucial. I wish I would have started cheering sooner than I did. At five, it’s not always easy to get them to focus and listen, but it’s a good time to get them into the feel of things and let them explore their coordination.”
There is not an age requirement that a person needs to meet to begin cheerleading. People are never discouraged from participating in cheer no matter how old they are.
What is required is the equipment, which can be very expensive.
Equipment for cheerleading such as the uniform, protective gear and accessories can add up to hundreds of dollars. This is not taking into account cheer camp, private coaching and championship admissions. Cheer season expenses can range from $1500-$2000.
3 Different Types of Cheer Squads
Many people have the perception that there is only one type of cheer squad. In reality, there are several groups of cheerleading squads and all obtain a different purpose as well.
Dangerous Cheer Stunts
It is crucial that cheerleaders master the basic dance routine and movements of the sport. Not for the purpose of winning competitions and performing well at football games, but to keep one another safe. Cheer coaches should urge squad members to stretch, condition, and practice with caution.
Basic cheer movements include:
- Motions: Cheer dance moves that involve simple arm movements are referred to as motions. Motions can be clapping or holding arms in a vertical v shape with pom poms.
- Jumps: Cheerleaders who are still at the beginning stages of cheer usually take on a single jump. Single jumps include a toe touch which involves a squad member jumping and forming a split in mid-air while touching both feet and both fists.
- Stunting: These movements can be dangerous if the members physically supporting the cheerleaders are not skilled. Improper support of the flyer can lead to a serious accident. Stunting involves the holding, tossing and catching cheerleaders.
- Tumbling: Tumbling is comprised of gymnastic and dance movements. This can be the riskiest of the cheer movements because it involves a cheerleader flipping, rolling and jumping in the air. Since these moves are performed on a mildly cushioned mat, landing upright on your feet is vital. Many cheerleaders over the years have tumbled and had incidents by landing on their knee, ankle, or neck, leaving them paralyzed.
Common Cheer Injuries
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission stated that in just one year, there were 4,954 emergency room visits due to cheerleading accidents. The injury rates from the sport also continue to increase which may indicate that there have not been many proper safety precautions put in place to alleviate these instances. According to past squad members, cheerleaders are not limited from performing even after they have experienced an injury.
The following are common injuries cheerleaders may experience in an accident.
- Sprains: Ankle sprains or the tearing of ligaments in the ankle, happen more frequently to cheerleaders than any other injury. An ankle sprain my seem harmless, but later on in life, they can be debilitating. Cheerleaders can obtain sprains by rolling their ankle on unstable surfaces. Cheer shoes do not have ample support for feet, which can also contribute to a sprained ankle. Other sprains that cheerleaders commonly experience are lower back strains, and groin strains from performing moves such as the splits, while many cheerleaders have even torn their ACL. Treatment for sprains require R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and anti-inflammatory medication.
- Back injuries: Cheer members who experience back injuries usually do so as a result of back handsprings. The pain can be excruciating and can last up to two weeks. Coaches should encourage stretching before their squad members perform intense movements on the mat. Cheerleaders who constantly perform backflips and who are not properly trained can cause trauma to their spine. The overuse of the vertebrae can cause a condition named spondylolisthesis. Spondylolisthesis involves the vertebrae (bone) slipping forward and touching the bone below. This condition can affect the shape of your spine. Complete recovery may not take place and steroid injections for pain or, in more severe cases, spinal infusion surgery may be necessary.
- Concussions: New studies have reported that within a 10 year period, concussions in cheer have increased by 26%. Cheer stunts are difficult to execute and can lead to traumatic head injuries. Squad members who experience serious head injuries are usually the cheerleaders who assume the position of the base. The base acts as a means to support the flyer (cheerleader on top of the pyramid). Traumatic head injuries occur in cheer when a flyer hits the base cheer member in the head with their foot or ankle when falling back down from the top of the pyramid. Symptoms of a concussion can include vomiting, sensitivity to light, headaches, balance issues and altered sleep patterns.
Preventing Cheerleading Injuries
Accidents in athletic activities happen often but this does not mean that they cannot be prevented. With the right amount of supervision and team support, squad members can execute stunts safely on the mat.
Ways to prevent cheerleading accidents include:
- Supervised training: Coach supervision is vital for cheerleaders when practicing jumps, stunts and tumbles. If an accident were to occur, coaches would need to be prepared. Certifications that coaches can obtain to be prepared for a cheerleading accident include AED training, CPR training and Sports First Aid training.
- Physical conditioning: It is crucial for cheerleaders to have core and lower body strength. Conditioning prepares cheerleaders to lift and perform stunts correctly. Stamina is also important because although cheer routines are only 2 1/2 minutes long, within that time span a cheerleader will need to perform multiple flips, jumps and tumbles safely.
- Rest: One of the most underestimated ways to stay safe in an athletic activity is getting rest. Much of the time an athlete will not feel the full extent of an injury and continue to play or perform. If for example, an athlete sustains a concussion and still cheers and within that performance suffers from a second concussion they squad member can experience second-impact syndrome.
Employment Cheerleading Lawsuits
Wage theft and sexual exploitation have been present and unresolved issues in the National Football League for over 50 years. Various reports have stated that NFL cheerleaders did not receive payment for long dance rehearsals, driving to charity events or their stay for out of state games.
NFL mascots and water boys are compensated at least $60,000 per season while NFL cheerleaders make less than the minimum wage.
NFL teams such as the Oakland Raiders, the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are just a few of the teams listed as offenders.
One the first of these claimants was a cheerleader named Lacy T. The Oakland Raiders cheerleader sought out legal advice from labor rights attorney Leslie Levy. Soon after, other cheerleaders followed. The history of exploitation and employment violations gained the attention of filmmakers which produced the documentary entitled “A Woman’s Work.”
Documentary of A Woman’s Work
The documentary reveals various illegal practices that the NFL partook in. Attorney Sean Cooney, who represented one of the claimants and who was also featured in the film, said: “It’s a product of careless indifference both to a worker and to a woman, and I think it’s part of an industry that perceives itself as being untouchable because of its popularity.”
Oakland Raiders cheerleaders received a settlement of $1.25 million. An apology was never issued on behalf of the NFL.
If you have not been fairly compensated by your employer, you have the right to seek out legal advice for your case. Contact the personal injury law firm of Bisnar Chase today to receive a free consultation on your employment law case.
High school Athletic Policies
There is a legal concept known as “assumption of the risk” which holds that a person may agree that other people involved in an activity with him/her will not be responsible for a personal injury and owe him/her less or no duty of care to not cause him personal injury.
When a person voluntarily takes part in an activity which has known risks of injury or harm, he/she might knowingly accept the risks of that harm.
Legal Effect of Release/Waiver of Liability
In most states which have adopted assumption of the risk, participation in “sport” is a circumstance in which primary assumption of the risk can be applied. “Sport” is vigorous physical activity, usually performed with others in a competitive environment.
Most sports involve the possibility of physical contact between participants, often forceful physical contact. Sport also involves the performance of physical activity which pushes the participant’s body into stressful or straining conditions (running, twisting, tumbling, pitching) often with a risk of personal injury if the participant does not perform the activity as expected (diving from a high dive, a gymnast on the rings or pommel horse or high beam).
The participants in most sponsored risky activities are required to sign a Waiver of Liability as a condition of being allowed to participate. In such a waiver, a participant will agree that the participant will not be able to sue the sponsoring entity and its employees because of an injury suffered because of the participation. A minor does not have legal capacity to sign such a waiver, so the minor’s parent(s) must sign on her behalf. Is this signed waiver an express assumption of the risk of injury on behalf of the minor cheerleader and, if so, how far does this protect the sponsoring entity and its employees?
As you might have already guessed, it depends on your state.
Liability for a Sports Injury
If people were legally liable for the injuries caused to others in these activities, or a coach or gym was responsible when an athlete did not perform a routine safely, there would be a damper on the full enjoyment of these activities; people would have to hold back or limit what they do.
Imposing legal liability for personal injuries would change the sport. Therefore, some states hold that a participant impliedly assumes the risks of personal injury that are inherent in a sporting-type activity. In many of these states cheerleading is seen as a sport, and so a cheerleader impliedly assumes the risks of personal injury which are inherent in modern cheerleading.
In California, the analysis of these issues is a two-step process:
- First is to decide whether or not the injury was caused by conduct which is inherent in and an integral part of the activity. If not (such as a case where a middle school student was hit in the head by a golf club during PE), the analysis stops and returns to general negligence analysis. If the risk is inherent (such as diving too deeply from blocks in competitive swimming and injuring yourself when you hit the bottom of the pool), then the court moves to the next step.
- Second, the court must evaluate whether the person or entity who is the defendant in the case, as a co-participant in the activity, “intentionally injured the participant or engaged in conduct that is so reckless as to be totally outside the range of ordinary activity involved in the sport, which increased the risk of, and contributed to, the at-issue injury”.
Duty of School Instructors
In most states, schools and their staff have a special relationship with their students. Since a major element of that relationship is the supervision and guidance of young people, teachers have a higher duty to protect students from harm while the students are under their supervision. In many states this duty is described or imposed by statute.
This duty of care is characterized in California as being the duty of a “prudent person” in like or similar situations, rather than an “ordinary” person.
Contact our Cheerleader Injury Attorneys For Legal Aid
The California Cheerleader Injury Lawyers at the law firm of Bisnar Chase understand that sports injuries are inevitable, but it does not mean someone should not be held accountable for those injuries.
Parents are already investing hundreds of dollars into sports for their children. If their child is injured they shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for their injuries as well. The personal injury attorneys at Bisnar Chase have won millions in compensation for our accident clients and continue to fight with passion and determination.
Call our law offices at 800-561-4887 to explore your legal options.