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Feature Story

May 2017


NFHS Revises Rules for Competitive Spirit Squads

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Cheerleading is among the most popular sports for girls in the United States, with more than 400,000 high school cheerleaders, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. But the injury rate in the sport is high, leading the NFHS to revise rules for the 2017-18 season.

According to the most recent survey of NFHS-member state associations, there are more than 400,000 high school cheerleaders in the United States and, as of 2015-16, about 130,000 of those participants were involved in competitive spirit squads. Competitive spirit is the ninth most popular sport for girls, according to the NFHS.

But according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina, nearly two-thirds (65.2 percent) of all catastrophic injuries in youth sports occur in cheerleading, with falls from gymnastic-type stunts reported to have a greater impact than being tackled by a professional football player.

In an ongoing effort to minimize risk of injury for participants in high school cheer and dace, the NFHS Spirit Rules Committee has revised several rules for the 2017-18 season, including adjustments to release transitions and inversions.

For example, two rules saw extensive revisions to reduce risk of injury for the top person in a stunt in cheer and dance. The rules were reorganize and clarify the requirements that must be followed in order for the top person to be in an inverted position.

"The Spirit Rules Committee takes risk minimization very seriously and looks at the rules for cheer and dance to ensure the most amount of success—from beginners to advanced—with minimal risk for all involved," said James Weaver, NFHS director of performing arts and sports, and staff liaison to the Spirit Rules Committee.

Among other rules changes that aim to improve safety, a new rule was introduced that states that when transitioning form a prop to a stunt or lift, the new bases shall be in contact with the top person before he or she leaves the prop. This rule minimizes the risk to participants when transitioning from props as bases to people as bases so that there is no time when the top person is free of contact from a base.

In addition, the committee approved revisions or removal of 11 definitions in Rule 1.

"The revision of definitions is to ensure accurate understanding of rules by clarifying the language and removing repetitive definitions," Weaver said.

A complete listing of all rules changes is available on the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org. Click on "Activities & Sports" at the top of the home page and select "Spirit."


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