Cheerleaders say acrobatic bans are an over-reaction

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SARASOTA - Cheerleaders at the University of Florida will be staying on the ground -- no more acrobatics or tumbling for the rest of the year, after an Orlando Magic cheerleader fell out of a stunt at a recent game.

But does the ban go too far? Many on the Suncoast say yes.

The Sarasota High School Sailors varsity cheerleading squad flip, fly, and tumble on a regular basis. “What we do, we're good at. We master a skill, and we do it right, and we do it good, and we're safe,” says varsity captain Taylor Quillen.

And their coach, Amanda Mavrikas, says safety is always a top priority. And while injuries can happen, she says banning stunts and tumbling in cheering is the equivalent of banning tackling in football. “When I hear about these tragedies and scary things, it's very scary, because they can get hurt. But as long as you keep it to your level, you don't allow them to goof around and just try things…they want to get creative, but there's a way to be creative and keep it safe at the same time.”

“I would say it's just as high number of injuries as any contact sport, on a soccer field, football field, softball field; it's just the nature of competitive sports.” Jennifer Roberts is a physician's assistant with Sugar Orthopedics. She's treated many cheerleaders over the years, but she says as with any sport, athletes are prone to injuries. “At a higher rate of competition, kids and athletes, whether it's high school or college, which we see a variety of different levels, as the level of competition gets greater, their level of training gets greater, so injuries can be a little worse because they're doing more complicated stunts and sports.”

And while cheerleaders admit that sometimes the stunts can be scary, they say it all comes down to trusting their teammates and their training. “It is a very tough sport. Everyone may not think it, but we obviously get hurt like everyone else does, but we all need to be safe,” says Quillen.

At the high school level, the Florida High School Athletic Association sets guidelines each year as to what stunts are allowed for cheerleaders. And at the college level, the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators set the regulations.