ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New York state education officials voted Tuesday to recognize competitive cheerleading as an interscholastic sport, in an effort to improve safety and coaching standards.
The state Board of Regents voted unanimously in favor of the measure a day after it was approved by one of its committees.
The Regents said the measure will help ensure that coaches are properly trained and that schools follow a common set of standards. Right now, there are no limits on the length of seasons or required practice days.
"This is a great step for the progress of cheerleading, and tomorrow's vote by the Board of Regents could be historical,'' said Robert Zayas, president of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, which would implement coaching and safety standards.
New York state had been considering whether to recognize cheerleading as an interscholastic sport since 2009. State officials said 34 states and the District of Columbia currently do so.
But some testifying in Albany this week worried that designating it as such in New York state could backfire. Official athletes can join one team a season, can't train together in the summer and can't leave the state to compete in national tournaments.
"We treat it as a sport here, so if a girl or a boy goes out for a cheerleading team, they cannot play another sport," Scott Reh, Mount Sinai athletic director, said Monday.
"Since it's not a sport, we can practice as much as we want," said Mount Sinai cheerleader Amanda Rose, adding her team practices together about 10 months out of the year.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also testified in Albany, saying that although the overall injury rate is low -- among the safest sports studied -- cheerleading injuries are increasing in number and severity nationwide, account for two-thirds of all catastrophic injuries among high school female athletes.
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has already drafted proposed rules and regulations.
The recommendation will take effect with the 2014-15 winter season.
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