Youth Services Law

Cheerleading not a "Contact Sport"

A Wisconsin appellate court has decided that cheerleading is not a contact sport.  The Marquette Law School faculty blog explains that Brittany Noffke fell during cheerleading practice and suffered a head injury.  She sued the fellow cheerleader who, she says, failed to properly spot her during the maneuver.  The defendant, Kevin Bakke, claimed that he cannot be sued for mere negligence, under a Wisconsin statute governing contact sports.  That statute allows suits only for reckless or intentional conduct.  The Wisconsin court held that, because cheerleading does not involve contact between opposing teams, it is not a "contact sport."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has granted review of the case, so the question is still alive.  It seems to me that the "contact sports" statute recognized that some activities, by their very nature, assume the risk of negligence by competitors and team members.  After all, there is no question, for example, that basketball is a "contact sport," and that a player could be hurt by a member of his own team chasing a missed free throw.  It is hard to understand how that player warrants more protection than a spotter on a cheerleading squad.

You can find more discussion of this decision at  the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and the PrawfsBlawg.

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