Enhancing Spirit Safety

January 29, 2015
Effective with the 2012-13 season, a double twist to a cradle (double down) no longer will be permitted in high school spirit (cheer, dance, drill, pom). This significant risk minimization ruling was one of 19 rules changes approved by the NFHS Spirit Rules Committee this spring. The rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.
With changes to Rules 2-8-9 and 2-10-2, a twist performed to a cradle must not involve more than one complete rotation except when dismounting to a cradle from a side-facing stunt or toss, which will permit 1 1/4 rotations. In these cases, the bases may make a one-fourth turn to catch the cradle.

"Data presented by the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee confirmed that the majority of head injuries in spirit are from body-to-body contact in stunts," said Susan Loomis, editor of the NFHS Spirit Rules Book. "The committee recognizes that the primary body-to-body contact issues are presented during double-twisting dismounts. Prohibiting double twists to a cradle is consistent with the NFHS focus on risk minimization.

"Many of the other changes approved by the committee would be considered less restrictive and should allow for more creativity on the part of high school participants," Loomis added.

Among those less-restrictive changes are several rules in a new section on Inversions. While allowing for more creativity and options, the committee believes these stunts do not increase risk of injury.

"These skills have been demonstrated to have a reasonable expectation for minimizing risk when given the specific limitations and conditions required for performance," Loomis said.

Another less-restrictive change is the elimination of Rule 2-4-8, which previously required a spotter's arms to be extended toward a top person in order to be in an alert, ready position. The committee agreed that there are a number of different ways for spotters to be alert and ready that don't involve extending the arms and which don't increase the risk of injury.

In other changes, the committee deleted rules regarding pendulums since they are now included in a set of rules regarding "horizontal" transitions. The rules committee also voted to allow swinging stunts to begin from below shoulder height rather than specifically from a cradle.

One change was approved by the committee in Rule 3 - Dance/Drill/Pom Risk Management. New language was added to Rule 3-4-1 which permits forward rolls from props low enough that the top person can put both hands on the performing surface before dismounting.

A number of the rules changes approved by the Spirit Rules Committee bring NFHS rules in closer alignment with the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches & Administrators (AACCA) rules. In addition, in a similar spirit of cooperation, AACCA will be revising some of its rules in other areas to align with NFHS rules.

This was the final meeting for Loomis to serve as the NFHS spirit rules consultant. She has served in that capacity since the organization moved to Indianapolis in 2000 and followed a 10-year involvement on the committee as a member and chair. Kent Summers, NFHS director of performing arts and sports, will now serve as staff liaison and rules editor.

Competitive spirit squads constitute the ninth-most popular activity for girls at the high school level, according to the 2010-11 High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the NFHS, with 96,718 participants nationwide. There are also 21,487 girls who participate in dance or drill teams, according to the same survey.
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