He Said/She Said: Football vs. Cheerleading

The Connecticut Post linked to a story about sports injuries that said:

Six sports accounted for 70 percent of injuries — running, basketball, football, volleyball, soccer, and gymnastics.

But cheerleading was found to be the leading cause of catastrophic injuries – those usually involving spinal cord damage – among high school and college athletes.

The conclusion was that cheer-leading is the most dangerous sport out there, and we here at The CuT thought this was a subject that needed to be “tackled” (pun intended).

He Said

There’s certainly a chance there might be more “catastrophic” injuries in cheer-leading because let’s face it: if you toss someone 12 feet in the air, there are going to be some cheerleaders slipping through the cracks—or arms of fellow cheerleaders—and bounce off the ground. Why someone is being tossed in the air, I have no idea. Does it get the crowd going? It’s a dangerous stunt, of course it will get a crowd’s attention. Then again, so will lighting someone on fire.

But to The Post’s point that cheer-leading is more dangerous than football: that’s laughable. Do you know what’s more dangerous than football? Wearing an A-Rod jersey in Southie. Hopping the fence around the White House. A knife fight. That’s about it.

It has been said that football is a contact sport but that’s false. It is a collision sport. Having played football for four years in high school and four years in college, I can tell you that a hard-hitting game is akin to a mid-speed car accident. It’s one collision after another, play after play (especially for the front seven) that can really take a toll on a person’s body.

There’s a reason why football games are only once a week; if there were more often, the rate of injuries, which is pretty high as it is, would be crippling. The only other sport that comes close to the level of physicality would be hockey, which is sort of like football on ice. I’ve always preferred football because I actually like having my teeth.

Does this mean that cheerleaders don’t do anything physical? Of course not! They stretch out, run a quarter mile, do tumbling, and they might even do a few push ups. But the activity of cheerleading is about as dangerous as a knitting class when compared to football.

She Said

I’ve never been a cheerleader. I don’t understand why anyone would want to be. But when I was a kid, I did gymnastics – not particularly well – which is basically just cheerleading with less screaming and more equipment. I was a decent tumbler, and did OK on the vault, but my balance on the beam left a little something to be desired.

You can probably see where I’m going with this:

  • Once I fell off the regulation beam (the tall, hard, brown ones you see in competition) and hit my head on the beam on my way down, and then again on one of the support bars, before hitting the ground.
  • Then there was the time I missed the beam after a cart-wheel or something, and came down on my crotch. Hard. For those of you who’ve never touched one of these beams, it’s basically akin to a log. It’s just a block of wood. I was pretty sure I’d cracked my pelvis, but luckily I have strong bones (whether or not I can have kids still remains to be seen).
  • There was another time where I found myself a bit bored, and decided to try this weird contraption coaches use to train you to “keep your legs together” when doing a handspring, or tuck, or whatever. You can ask the men in my life, I’ve never had trouble “keeping my legs together” but I was curious so I grabbed this thing, and wrapped it around my legs. Then I tried a back handspring and lost momentum about halfway through, and came down on head. I couldn’t straighten my neck out for days.

And I did all of it without pads, or a helmet, or a cup—several times a week. One summer I did it every day, for three hours, in an old, sweaty gym without air conditioning—under the supervision of one of the creepier coaches known to man (as if there were any male gymnastic coaches who aren’t creepy). This is what I base my understanding of cheerleaders on.

As Ring Nation says, cheerleaders “stretch out, run a quarter mile, do tumbling, and they might even do a few push ups.” If the level of actual physical activity is what we’re basing our “who is toughest” comparison on, then soccer players win flat out. Those guys run more in one game than football players do all week, and while the hits may be more infrequent, they certainly occur…and they hit hard, without pads, and sometimes without warning. I spent several years of my life as a sports reporter, and soccer made me cringe the most. And all you have to do is compare your average linebacker to your average goalkeeper (arguably the least “in-shape” players in each sport) to know who is more physically fit. (And when I think about some of the guys who resembled jelly-doughnuts more than athletes on my high school football team, I’m not exactly convinced they ran anywhere…ever.)

But we’re talking about “danger” here. So, let’s take the Ra-Ra cheerleaders out of the equation because the only risk posed by asking a crowd “how funky are their chickens” is flying debris. Nope, we’re talking about the crazy, Bring It On kinds of cheerleaders: the ones who go flying high, climb to the tops of human pyramids, and go flip-flopping all over the floor. Football injuries, when played by the rules and with people who know what they’re doing, ends with a separated shoulder or a torn ligament. But if you’re a cheerleader (or Jason Street), and things go wrong, you end up paralyzed or with a cracked head. I’ll take the tweaked shoulder any day.

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9 comments

  1. if football players are such great athletes, why are so many of them so damn fat? perhaps that adds to the danger of the sport–you could die from a heart attack.

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  2. When you get to the college and pro ranks, there are VERY few “fat” guys. There are mostly giant men who are insanely strong and can run pretty darn fast.

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  3. i completly agree with this i had a fight with my boyfriend about this because he thinks that football i harder but i completley agree with it thank you!!!!!!!!!!!

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  4. You’re totally wrong.

    And going to the “fat football” players point, I’ll just say I remember high school and there was a good amount of chunk on the sidelines cheering for the team.

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  5. Pf course there are chunky girls on the sideline in high school but that’s not real cheer. Go to worlds and you’ll see real cheerleaders perform. Worlds is a cheerleaders Super Bowl. You win worlds once, you’ve won it all. High school crap ain’t cheer. WORLDS is cheer.

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  6. I.dont.understand the whole thing of how cheerleaders are “tougher”. I dont disagree that its a sport but cmon. The only reason sombody gets hurt in cheerleading is because somebody doesnt know what there doing. And I personally have seen girls practice for 3 hours. And they do nothing haha. Except their routine and maybe a half mile. Maybe. If a girl ever stepped out on a football practice field. They would realize what a tough sport football really is. we run about 2 1/2 miles at mu school. And we run for 45 minutes out of 2 hours. And the rest of time were in contact hitting eachother and running plays. And I always here about the we lift a 85-125 lb girl above our heads argument. While cheerleaders are doing that football players are squating 300 benching 200 cleaning 200 and so much more. You would have no idea the stregth and toughness of a “fat football player” the reason we dont get hurt in football is bc we prepare ourselves for injury. Thats why we strength train. To make the hits easier to take. and also i dont think dancing around is much of a strenuous sport. But sorry ladies ive never seen a cheelreader that look like demarcus ware

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