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Court: Cheerleading is a contact sport

January 28, 2009
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MADISON, Wis. - High school cheerleading is a contact sport and therefore its participants cannot be sued for accidentally causing injuries, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled yesterday in a case watched in the cheerleading world.

The court ruled that a former high school cheerleader 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.

The National Cheer Safety Foundation said the decision is the first of its kind in the nation.

At issue was whether cheerleaders qualify for immunity under a Wisconsin law that prevents participants in contact sports from suing each other for unintentional injuries. It does not spell out which are contact sports. The District 4 Court of Appeals ruled last year cheerleading didn't qualify because there's no contact between opposing teams. All seven members of the Supreme Court agreed to overturn that decision. In the opinion, Justice Annette Ziegler said cheerleading involves "a significant amount of physical contact between the cheerleaders." As an example, she cited stunts in which cheerleaders are tossed in the air.

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