Cheerleading has changed tremendously in the last 25 years, said John Ireland, owner of Lexington Gymnastics and Cheerleading.
e_SDLqBring It On has taken over cheerleading," said Ireland
, referring to the series of teen movies featuring fierce cheerleading competitions.
Cheerleaders are frequently no longer cheering for their sports teams, but cheering for themselves with a focus on winning competitions, said Ireland
, a former University of Kentucky cheerleader.
The success of Central Kentucky cheerleading squads, especially UK's and Dunbar's, and the creation of more gyms designed to produce competitive squads, have helped make the sport more physically challenging.
Squads are "having to raise the bar (on the stunts they do) to be more competitive," said Ireland
, whose gym focuses on recreational cheerleading.
Gymnastics are also becoming an integral part of cheerleading at all levels which can lead to more injuries.
At the same time, he
said, the cheerleading community has taken steps to make the sport safer.