CHICAGO -- The American Medical Association says cheerleading should be considered a sport because of its rigors and risks.
The nation's largest doctors' group adopted that as policy Monday at its annual meeting in Chicago. AMA members say cheerleading is as rigorous as many other activities that high schools and the NCAA consider sports. Adding it to the list would mean more safety measures for cheerleaders and proper training for their coaches.
Cheerleading is a leading cause of catastrophic injury in female athletes at the high school and college level, Dr. Samantha Rosman, a Boston-area pediatrician, told AMA delegates during floor debate before the vote.
"These girls are flipping 10, 20 feet in the air," Rosman said. "We need to stand up for what is right for our patients and demand they get the same protection as their football colleagues."
The new policy means the AMA supports having appropriate accrediting bodies declare cheerleading a sport, and supports better safety measures including avoiding inappropriate surfaces when performing flips and other stunts and following rules for properly performing stunts.
The policy echoes one adopted by the American Academy of Pediatrics two years ago.
The AMA's five-day meeting includes Tuesday's swearing-in of a new AMA president, Dr. Robert Wah. He is 56 and a reproductive specialist in McLean, Virginia.