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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wisconsin court rules high school cheerleading is a contact sport

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- High school cheerleading is a contact sport and therefore its participants cannot be sued for accidentally causing injuries, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a case being closely watched in the cheerleading world.

The court ruled that a former high school cheerleader cannot sue a teammate who failed to stop her fall while she was practicing a stunt. The court also said the injured cheerleader cannot sue her school district.

The National Cheer Safety Foundation said the decision is the first of its kind in the nation.

At issue in the case was whether cheerleaders qualify for immunity under a Wisconsin law that prevents participants in contact sports from suing each other for unintentional injuries.

It does not spell out which sports are contact sports. The District 4 Court of Appeals ruled last year cheerleading didn't qualify because there's no contact between opposing teams.

But all seven members of the Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to overturn that decision. In the opinion, Justice Annette Ziegler said cheerleading involves "a significant amount of physical contact between the cheerleaders." As an example, she cited stunts in which cheerleaders are tossed in the air.

The lawsuit was brought by Brittany Noffke, who was a varsity cheerleader at Holmen High School in western Wisconsin. While practicing a stunt in 2004, Noffke fell backward off the shoulders of another cheerleader and suffered a serious head injury.

She sued a 16-year-old male teammate who was supposed to be her spotter but failed to catch her; the school district; and the district's insurer.

Ziegler rejected Noffke's argument that "contact sports" should mean only aggressive sports such as football and hockey. She wrote they should include any sport that that includes "physical contact between persons."

"I think it's groundbreaking, but I'm disappointed in the result," said attorney Tracy Tool, who represented Noffke.

Tool would not elaborate on Noffke's injuries or say if she has fully recovered.

The decision means cheerleaders can be sued only for acting recklessly. The court said Noffke's teammate only made a mistake or showed a lack of skill. As for the school district, Ziegler said it cannot be sued for the coach's behavior under a Wisconsin law that shields government agencies from lawsuits for the actions of employees.

Many observers had warned that families of cheerleaders would be forced to take out big insurance policies if the lower court decision stood.

Because of the increasingly difficult stunts, injuries among high school cheerleaders are a problem. Researchers at the University of North Carolina have found that two-thirds of the roughly 100 cases of "catastrophic" sports injuries among high school girls since 1982 have involved cheerleading.

More than 95,000 female students and 2,100 male students take part in high school cheerleading every year, according to the North Carolina researchers.

Most state athletic governing bodies do not regulate cheerleading. Those that do make a distinction between "competitive spirit squads" and sideline cheerleading, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. The group writes voluntary rules for cheerleading that do not have the force of law.

"There's a lot of gray area about whether it's a sport or an activity," said spokesman Bruce Howard.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Court rules cheerleading is contact sport

MADISON, Wis. -- High school cheerleading is a contact sport and therefore its participants cannot be sued for accidentally causing injuries, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a case being closely watched in the cheerleading world.

The court ruled that a former high school cheerleader cannot sue a teammate who failed to stop her fall while she was practicing a stunt.

The court also said the injured cheerleader cannot sue her school district.

Justice Annette Ziegler said cheerleading involves "a significant amount of physical contact between the cheerleaders."

The National Cheer Safety Foundation said the decision is the first of its kind in the nation.

At issue in the case was whether cheerleaders qualify for immunity under a Wisconsin law that prevents participants in contact sports from suing each other for unintentional injuries.

It does not spell out which sports are contact sports. The District 4 Court of Appeals ruled last year cheerleading doesn't qualify because there's no contact between opposing teams.

But all seven members of the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to overturn that decision. In the opinion, Justice Annette Ziegler said cheerleading involves "a significant amount of physical contact between the cheerleaders." As an example, she cited stunts in which cheerleaders are tossed in the air.

The lawsuit was brought by Brittany Noffke, who was a varsity cheerleader at Holmen High School in western Wisconsin. Practicing a stunt in 2004, Noffke fell backward off the shoulders of another cheerleader and suffered a serious head injury.

She sued a 16-year-old male teammate who was supposed to be her spotter but failed to catch her. She also sued the school district and the district's insurer.

Ziegler rejected Noffke's argument that "contact sports" should mean only aggressive sports such as football and hockey. Ziegler, in the court's ruling, wrote they should include any sport that includes "physical contact between persons."

The decision means cheerleaders can be sued only for acting recklessly. The court said Noffke's teammate only made a mistake or showed a lack of skill.

As for the school district, Ziegler said it cannot be sued for the coach's behavior under a Wisconsin law that shields government agencies from lawsuits for the actions of employees.

Many observers had warned that families of cheerleaders would be forced to take out big insurance policies if the lower court decision stood.

Because of the increasingly difficult stunts, injuries among high school cheerleaders are a problem.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina have found that two-thirds of the roughly 100 cases of "catastrophic" sports injuries among high school girls since 1982 have involved cheerleading.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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Does Andy Murray have temperament to depose Roger Federer?

By Ed Smith

Andy Murray, Roger Federer - Does Andrew Murray have the temperament to depose the king, Roger Federer?
Way back when: Andy Murray has the potential to knock Roger Federer off his pedestal at the Australian Open Photo: REUTERS

A great sportsman isn't just a player – he is a presence and a brand whose reputation can easily mask a dropping off in form.

But as an opponent, it takes deep confidence to say to yourself, "Allan Donald has lost a yard", or "John McEnroe has lost a step". Cricket dressing-rooms often throw around the cliche, "Play the ball, not the man", as though it isn't Shane Warne who is bowling at you but some blond Aussie who may or may not be having a good day.

Easy to say, harder to do. It requires a healthy disdain for reputations and an all-important lack of vertigo. And vertigo – "dizziness or giddiness, a whirling sensation when the balance is disturbed" – is one of sport's great banana skins. Given that he already leading Roger Federer 5-2 in tour matches, will Andy Murray prove immune to the condition?

Federer and Murray, now fighting for the Australian Open, stand at opposite moments in their careers. Does Murray have the temperament not only to depose the old king, but also to crown himself? And is Federer, the most serene of champions, capable of scrapping his way back to the top?

A declining champion faces an uncomfortable predicament. His mastery may be waning, but the prize of his scalp endures. He might not be quite as good as he was, but that doesn't make beating him less alluring. The hunter becomes the hunted, as McEnroe put it in his declining years, and "those young guys were as keen for my blood as sharks in the water".

Federer was introduced to this alien feeling last year. But it isn't clear what Federer turns to in moments of crisis: anger isn't his style, rivalry has always seemed beneath him, and macho egotism would be grotesque to him. That is why facing defeat has not always brought out the best in Federer – he seems to regard it as a category error without an appropriate response.

But in this year's Wimbledon final, surely the greatest ever, we saw a different side of Federer. He doesn't really do angst. But on Centre Court we glimpsed a more human dimension beneath the zen exterior, as though he was being forced to access a different, unfamiliar strand of his personality to overcome this challenge. It might just have rebooted his career.

I cannot remember ever wanting someone to win a sports match more. And though Federer lost, the experience proved cathartic. He won the US Open soon after, brushing aside Murray in the final, a coda to the loss of his Wimbledon crown.

On Friday, against Marat Safin in Melbourne, Federer played superbly; masterful and elegant. But Federer might do well to keep Wimbledon defeat, not New York victory, near the top of his mind, a prompt to summon his hunger should it ever desert him in the scorching Melbourne sunshine. If your powers do wane, you can't wait until things start to go wrong. You have to summon your psychological retaliation in advance.

Nothing could be further from Murray's mind than decline. It has been a heady few months for him, in which he has been the men's tour's stand-out performer. Murray now stands on the cusp and no one knows how he will handle the jump.

One reason why sports careers are so hard to predict is that each quantum leap requires a new psychological skill. First making your mark, then upsetting a champion here or there, now becoming a consistent contender, and then finally taking up residence at the top. It is not only that more skill is required on every step of that journey; each is also a subtly different mental challenge.

One former team-mate of mine, a brilliantly talented batsmen, never recovered from the daunting reality of becoming a senior player. In his mind, he was still an emerging talent, who looked to wiser, older heads for constant soothing approval. When they retired one by one, he was faced with the unpleasant reality of having to provide reassurance from within. It proved beyond him, and he collapsed.

What works as a newcomer – I'm mixing it against Federer – may not work when you are expected not only to compete but also to win. Murray has proved he relishes a scrap, especially with the big guns. But soon, perhaps already, they will all be gunning for him. Can he embody the idea that he is destined not only to compete but also to conquer? That is what Federer did uniquely: project the aura of inevitability. You had to overcome not only his skill, but also rewrite the seemingly preordained Federer narrative – making even great opponents seem almost complicit.

If the two keep winning – and we haven't mentioned the small matter of Rafael Nadal – Federer and Murray will meet in the final. It might be 5-2 to Murray overall, but it's 1-0 to Federer in grand-slam finals. The next statistic in that sequence might prove the turning point, in different directions, for both of them.

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Crash kills Nigerian footballers

Map

Police in Nigeria say 15 members of a local government football team have been killed in a road accident in central Plateau state.

The Nigeria Football Federation head, Mohamed Sanusi, said the team had been on their way to play a match in Abuja.

A similar incident in the same area last month killed at least nine female football players.

Correspondents say Nigeria's roads are among the most dangerous in the world, killing thousands of people every year.

Mr Sanusi said the team, FC Jimeta from north-east Adamawa state, had been heading to the capital for a professional league match when their bus was involved in an accident.

He told AFP news agency that 11 players had died at the scene while four others died in hospital. Two other injured players were said to be "on the danger list".

"It is really another very sad day for Nigerian football," said Mr Sanusi.

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Michael Phelps will not defend all eight medals at London 2012 Olympics

By Steve Wilson

Michael Phelps will not defend all eight medals in London 2012 Olympics
Taking it easy: Michael Phelps will not compete in eight events at the London 2012 Olympics as he did in Beijing last year Photo: REUTERS

Phelps became the most successful athlete at an individual games in China, beating fellow swimmer Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals set in 1972.

In one of the stand-out performances of any games, the 23-year-old set seven world records, eight American records and eight Olympic records in the process of becoming the most decorated male Olympian of all time with a total of 16 Olympic medals, including 14 golds - the others having been won in Athens in 2004.

His achievements were recognised by the United States Olympic Committee, which named Phelps its Sportsman of the Year for 2008, but the swimmer insisted he would not try and repeat his epic achievement in London or anywhere else.

“I’ll never swim eight events at a major competition again,” Phelps said.

“I’m almost positive that my last eight-event meet was Beijing.”

Phelps said easing back on his competitive schedule would allow him to enjoy the Olympics in London much more than he had at previous Games.

“I think I will have more time to take in all the experiences,” he said, “possibly being in the stands and cheering.

“You know, I haven’t had that experience since, I guess, 2001 at my first world championships. So, really being a part of the team more.

“When you’re swimming so many events, all you do is eat, sleep, swim; eat, sleep, swim; eat sleep swim. You never get to be in the stands.

“I was always warming up, warming down, going back and forth to the pool, eating at the village and then going to sleep.

“So that’s something I’m looking forward to and it’s something that should be fun.”

Phelps, who revealed he had returned to serious training on Tuesday with long-time coach Bob Bowman, was delighted with this latest award which followed being named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year for 2008.

“I think this year as a whole, being over in Beijing and being SI Sportsman Of The Year and now being USOC Sportsman of the year, it’s all really been a dream come true and things just keep on getting better.

“I’ve just recently started getting back into the water and training a little bit with some kind of ‘official’ days with Bob and everything that has happened this year has just been something that will be with me forever.

“It is really is an honour to receive the USOC Sportsman of the year award.”

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Calif. governor proposes taxing a round of golf

A proposal by California's governor to include golf in a series of tax increases has angered duffers and, apparently, thrilled headline writers.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to add taxing a round of golf to a series of new service fees to close a nearly $42 billion budget deficit, the Associated Press reports.

Hence the string headlines: Sacramento's KXTV's "Golfers Tee'd Off Over Proposed Tax" and The Fresno Bee's "Governor Deserves A Clubbing For This One"

Schwarzenegger appears to be in deep financial rough: The AP quotes Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, as saying that such fees are so "politically difficult and controversial" that it's usually one of the last proposals that's floated.

Fore!

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Matador, 11, kills six bulls in Mexico

"I'm happy to have achieved this great victory," said the boy before leaving the bloodied bull ring in Merida, southeastern Mexico.

A local judge earlier gave the go-ahead for the child to fight six calves aged from one to two years after reviewing licenses and permits submitted by Michelito's father, the former French bullfighter Michel Lagravere.

Animal rights groups and child protection officials had previously asked the state human rights commission to suspend the event.

But the boy's father defended the decision to allow the 11-year-old to fight, saying: "Michelito has fought bulls since he was six years old and he's never had a serious accident."

A video of the fight will be sent to Guinness for consideration for a world record - for the number of bulls killed and the age of the bullfighter.

Some 3,500 people, including many young children, gathered at the ring to witness the bullfight.

Several bullfights by Michelito were banned in France last summer after protests from anti-bullfighting associations.

Michelito has killed dozens of bulls in Mexico since he was six years old.

The anti-bullfighting alliance in France said it had targeted him over other younger matadors because "he fights in corridas aiming to kill."

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Chat with Stephon Marbury


Marbury has not seen eye-to-eye with the Knicks this season.
Welcome to The Show! On Tuesday, we bring a big star to SportsNation when Starbury himself, Stephon Marbury, will talk about his NBA career, current contract issues and new clothing line.

Over his career, Marbury has averaged 19.7 points and 7.8 assists per game. His career assists per game average is 12th in NBA history and he is 22nd in total career assists with 6,396.

More recently, Marbury has been in the news as a result of his contract. He hasn't played in a game this season for the New York Knicks, however, the team has yet to buy out his contract. Marbury recently said that he would like to reunite with former teammate Kevin Garnett on the Boston Celtics.

Despite not playing basketball, Marbury has teamed with rapper Bow Wow to relaunch his shoeline, along with adding a clothing line. Starbury also got with Amazon to bring consumers stylish, high quality, affordable shoes and apparel online and starting in November 2009, consumers around the world can purchase Starbury products from the comfort of their homes.

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