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Cheerleading Injuries

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The varsity cheerleading squad is practicing before the big game at Clarkstown High School North.

It can be fun, but it can also be dangerous.

"I just got my second concussion... I've sprained a lot of things, and a lot of black eyes," says Michelle Macalena.

Cheerleading injuries have been on the rise for years. Now the American Academy of Pediatrics is putting out new guidelines that say cheerleading should be designated as a sport in all states -- a designation that would ensure cheerleaders certain safety measures.

"Things like mandatory pre-sport physicals, access to appropriately certified coaches, access to training programs," says Dr. Emily Dodwell.

Cheerleading has become more competitive in recent years and routines involve more complex and difficult moves. Each year, there are about 26,000 injuries in the U.S.

Other recommendations include no stunts on hard or wet surfaces and no pyramids more than two people high. At Clarkstown North, the team does everything it can to prevent injuries.

"If we're learning a new stunt we do require that they have spotters in the back until they can execute the stunt very firmly," says cheerleading coach AnnMarie Dilonardo.

15-year-old Shannon O'Connor broke her nose during a stunt. But it didn't dampen her enthusiasm for cheering. "Cheerleading is my life. I never want to stop."

And since safety comes first, there were no stunts during the big game, because it was raining.

The overall injury rate in high school cheerleading is lower than other girls sports like soccer and gymnastics, but the rate of catastrophic injuries like skull fractures and spinal injuries is higher.

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