Mississippi physicians say cheerleading is a sport - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Is cheerleading a sport? Mississippi physicians weigh in

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Cheerleaders compete at the state fairgrounds at annual Cheer and Dance Competition. (Source: WLBT/Oct. 13, 2013) Cheerleaders compete at the state fairgrounds at annual Cheer and Dance Competition. (Source: WLBT/Oct. 13, 2013)
RIDGELAND, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Cheerleading should be considered a sport.

That's what physicians agreed last week because of the high risk of injuries.

"We hope this will improve safety measures at Mississippi schools," said Lee Voulters, MD of Gulfport. Dr. Voulters is a Gulfport neurologist who chairs the Mississippi State Medical Association Board of Trustees.

Voulters was one of 22 Mississippi physicians and medical students attending a meeting of the American Medical Association in Chicago last week.

"Cheerleading is as rigorous as many other sporting activities considered by high schools and the NCAA as sporting activities. Adding it to the list would mean more safety measures for cheerleaders and proper training for coaches," Dr. Voulters explained.

The AMA physicians will ask accrediting bodies to declare cheerleading a sport and improve safety measures.

These include avoiding inappropriate surfaces when performing flips and other stunts and following established guidelines for properly performing stunts.

The policy follows the passage of Mississippi's "Return to Play" legislation, which goes into effect July 1.

With this law, if an athlete is suspected of having sustained a head injury in the course of play, the student will be immediately removed from play and will be prohibited from returning until they have received a thorough examination by a trained medical professional and are cleared to return.

Cheerleading should follow the same guidelines since it is one of the leading causes of concussions in female athletes he has treated, said Dr. Voulters.

"Cheerleaders are not exempt from the same type of injuries occurring in other sports," Dr. Voulters said. "I've had young ladies come in after a fall and I find they have suffered a concussion. Then, they are told by their coaches to get right back out there. I am very concerned about what is happening in our schools and want cheerleaders to have the same protection as athletes involved in contact sports."

Mississippi's delegation to the AMA included Sharon F. Douglas, MD, of Madison; Clay Hays, Jr., MD, of Jackson and Claude Brunson, MD, of Jackson.  Alternate delegates were Randy Easterling, MD, of Vicksburg; Lucius Lampton, MD, of Magnolia and James Rish, MD, of Tupelo.

On the AMA work team were Voulters; Lee Giffin, MD, of Vicksburg; Jennifer Bryan, MD, of Flowood; Thomas Joiner, MD, of Brandon; Geri Weiland, MD, of Vicksburg and Hugh Gamble, MD, of Greenville.

Representing various specialty organizations were Eric Lindstrom, MD, of Laurel; David McClendon, MD, of Biloxi; Nicole Lee, MD, of Jackson; Jane Beebe Jones, MD, of Jackson; William Waller, MD, of Hattiesburg and AMA past president Edward Hill, MD, of Tupelo. 

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