TODAY   |  November 17, 2012

Big stunts, scary falls: The dangers of cheerleading

“Of all the catastrophic injuries, about two-thirds of them come from cheerleading for high school and college girls,” said surgeon Dr. Sabrina Strickland. With a dancer on the Orlando Magic’s stunt team recovering after a nasty fall this week, the dangers of cheerleading are getting the spotlight. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a dancer on the orlando magic stunt team is recovering after a nasty fall while performing this week. it's once again drawing attention to the dangers of cheerleading. here's gabe gutierrez.

>> reporter: the crowd never saw it coming. 31-year-old jamie wood , part of the orlando magic stunt team lost her balance and tumbled to the floor earlier this week during a game against the new york knicks. the arena watched in silence as paramedics rushed to help her. then applause. wood waved to fans as she was taken off the court on a stretcher.

>> i think it was honestly just a freak accident . what she was doing when she fell wasn't even an advanced stunt.

>> reporter: a freak accident ? perhaps. but injuries to cheerleaders are surging. you can find videos of similar plunges all over youtube, and last year, there were more than 38,000 emergency room visits related to cheerleading. now there's even a reality show called "cheer" on cable channel cmt documenting the intense world of competitive cheerleading .

>> as people do more cheerleading and get more advanced, they do much more complicated stunts.

>> reporter: so last month, the american academy of pediatrics recommended that cheerleading be classified as an official sport, mandating qualified coaches, better medical care , and limits on practice time.

>> the risk of catastrophic injuries where patients have a permanent disability is higher than any other sport for female athletes. of all the catastrophic injuries, it's about 2/3 of them come from cheerleading for high school and college girls .

>> reporter: lauren jackson knows that all too well. nine years ago, she fell on her neck during high school cheerleading tryouts.

>> had it had stricter guidelines and regulations and precautions, this might have been prevented.

>> reporter: as for the magic stunt performer , the team says she's in stable condition after suffering three vertebra fractures and a broken rib. she's expected to fully recover. for "today," gabe gutierrez, nbc news.