The ongoing debate over whether cheerleading is a sport may have been finally decided. According to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, not only is cheer a sport (rather than an activity), but it is a contact sport.
In a case watched closely by the cheerleading world, the decision means that participants cannot be sued for accidentally causing injuries.
The court ruled that former high school cheerleader Brittany Noffke cannot sue a teammate who failed to stop her fall while she was practicing a stunt. The court also said the injured cheerleader cannot sue her school district.
At issue in the case was whether cheerleaders qualify for immunity under a Wisconsin law that prevents participants in contact sports from suing each other for unintentional injuries. Participants can, however, be sued for reckless behavior.
The lawsuit was brought Noffke, who was a varsity cheerleader at Holmen High School in western Wisconsin. Noffke’s suit claimed she received a severe head injury because a male teamate failed to properly spot her as she fell onto a tile floor during a pre-game warm-up Dec. 17, 2004.
Last year, a Circuit Court judge dismissed the suit citing immunity granted to participants in contact team sports. Later an appeals court found that because cheerleading doesn’t directly involve opposing teams like football or soccer, it wasn’t covered under the recreational immunity statute.
But Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler rejected Noffke’s argument that “contact sports” should mean only aggressive sports such as football and hockey. She wrote they should include any sport that that includes “physical contact between persons.”
Whether you agree or disagree, this is a ground-breaking decision that will impact how cheerleaders, coaches and schools approach training and comps. What do you think?