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NBA Cheerleading Accident Highlights Risks to Athletes

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A cheerleader was recovering in the hospital Wednesday after she fell on her head during a stunt at an Orlando Magic basketball game.

Jamie Woode, 31,  lost her footing during the Magic match-up against the New York Knicks Tuesday in Orlando, landing on her head on the basketball court. She suffered a broken rib and three broken vertebrae.

“She suffered no neurological damage and is expected to make a full recovery,” Joel Glass, a spokesman for the Orlando Magic, told the Orlando Sentinel, adding that Woode’s family has asked for privacy.

Woode is in stable condition, but her fall sheds light on the dangers of extreme stunts that are now routine for cheerleading.

Stunts in cheerleading today include highly acrobatic jumps and flips that can launch a cheerleader 20 feet into the air. They carry dangerous consequences if they go wrong.

“Cheerleading is probably the highest risk sport for a catastrophic head and neck injury,” Dr. Jeff Mjaanes, a pediatrician who specializes in sports medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, told ABC’s Good Morning America in an interview that aired Thursday.

“I would say I at least have one or two cheerleaders a day with different injuries,” he added.

The mishaps, which can lead to such injuries, are well-documented on the Internet. There are many YouTube videos that show cheerleaders crash-landing, slipping from pyramids and tumbling out of control.

Kasey and Kori Bronstein of Mahwah, N.J.,  sisters who share a love of competitive cheerleading, know all too well the agony that one false move can bring.

Kasey Bronstein said she tore the patella tendon in her right leg. Her sister did, too, and also tore her ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament in her knee.

More than 37,000 cheerleaders went to emergency rooms last year, according to data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That represents a four-fold increase from 1980. The catastrophic injuries from all that tumbling and flipping rank second only to football injuries.

The situation is so serious that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report last month recommending that cheerleading be designated as a sport at both the high school and collegiate levels in all states “so that it is subject to rules and regulations set forth by sports governing bodies,” such as the NCAA that regulates college sports.

The AAP cites statistics such as a 600,000 increase in the number of U.S. cheerleaders from 1990 to 2003 and that cheerleading accounts for 66 percent of all catastrophic injuries in high school female athletes in the past 25 years in calling for more stringent guidelines.

Among the AAP’s recommendations, the group says that pyramids should not be more than two people high and should be performed only on a spring or foam floor or grass or turf, not a hard, wet or uneven surface.

It also recommends that any cheerleader suspected of having a head injury be removed from practice or competition immediately, and that all cheerleaders should have a pre-season physical and access to strength and conditioning coaches.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio