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'Double Down' Banned in H.S. Cheerleading Due to Concussion Risk

In an effort to reduce the risk of concussions in cheerleading, the National Federation of State High School Associations recently approved a rule change that bans high school cheerleaders from performing a double twist to a cradle, also known as a "double down," starting this coming school year.

The move is still allowed in college cheerleading, however.

"Cradle" is the term for when a cheerleader dismounts from a stunt and gets caught by other cheerleaders, face-up. The "double twist to a cradle" is exactly what it sounds like: A cheerleader being tossed, going through two full rotations in the air, then landing in the arms of other cheerleaders.

As one might expect, such an acrobatic maneuver comes with great risk, according to data.

"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, in a statement. "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."

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story last week about 15-year-old Madison DiGioia, a cheerleader who was sidelined by a concussion for two months after slamming the back of her head on a teammate's knee during a double down. She missed five weeks of school as a result of the injury.

"The number [of concussions] that were coming from double downs was overwhelming and appeared to be increasing," said Jim Lord, executive director of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators, to the Inquirer.

"The decision was a very hard one to make, because cheerleaders will see this as taking something away from them."

With previous research showing girls more likely to suffer long-term effects from concussions and other traumatic brain injuries than boys, reducing the risk of concussions in cheerleading is paramount, Lord said.

Eliminating double downs gives him a "really good feeling about reduction in injury going forward," he told the paper, despite complaints that some parents and cheerleading advocates may have about the decision.

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