TMA Helps Make Cheerleading Safer

TMA's advocacy to improve safety in interscholastic athletics has helped convince state officials to adopt rules to reduce cheerleaders' risk of concussions.

On June 11, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) Legislative Council followed its Medical Advisory Committee recommendations and voted  to require cheerleaders to comply with state law on prevention, treatment, and oversight of concussions. Cheerleading coaches and sponsors must now be trained on safety guidelines to minimize the risk.

In January, TMA urged UIL to improve cheerleading safety. "Epidemiologic data suggest concussions and other serious injuries are a risk in physical activities such as cheerleading as well as in traditional contact sports. National data on injuries associated with cheerleading, and some recent projections on the risk and incidence of cheerleading injuries, are alarming," the association told UIL officials in a letter from Jason Terk, MD, then-chair of the TMA Council on Science and Public Health, and Gilbert Handal, MD, then-chair of the TMA Committee on Child and Adolescent Health.

"Including cheerleading within the scope of the UIL can be a bold move to ensure we have a state system focused on injury prevention under consistent, evidence-based safety guidelines," they wrote. "Providing a governance structure for cheerleading will help guarantee that participants and leaders throughout the state are trained in proper techniques, are informed about the signs and symptoms of concussions, and follow a process for consistently reporting injuries."

In 2012, the TMA House of Delegates referred the cheerleading issue to the Council on Science and Public Health for further study after the Harris County delegation raised concerns in a resolution. Then during its meeting at TexMed 2013, the house adopted policy that TMA advocate stronger UIL oversight of cheerleading programs; work with other groups to increase injury surveillance; promote educational programs for students, coaches, and physicians; and encourage physicians to get involved in local development of policies and strategies focusing on injury prevention through school health advisory councils. 

Action, June 14, 2013