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Local cheerleaders talk safety after Massachusetts death

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A Massachusetts community is filled with grief this evening after a 14-year-old cheerleader died after a stunt.

Police say Ashley Burns was practicing a routine when she was thrown into the air and caught chest down by her teammates.

She never hit the floor. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she died. An autopsy is scheduled to find out the exact cause of death.

The cheerleader's death raises some concerns about the dangers of cheering stunts. Some studies show cheerleading injuries result in more time off than any other high school sport. Cheerleading insiders say those statistics are misleading.

News on 6 reporter Ashli Sims checked out a cheerleading camp to find out just how safe it is on the sidelines.

Cheerleading is not just dancing and pom-poms anymore. It's tumbling, twisting and tossing that's taken center stage, and elevated this sideline activity to serious competition.

Cindy Berner, Coach/Parent: "Tt used to be just cheerleading and now its a competitive sport."

With that evolution has come serious injury.

Shannon Young, Cheer Dynamix: "Cheerleading has taken on aspects of various other sport like gymnastics so there's going to be more injuries related to what we do now."

The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research reports more young women are severly injured in cheerleading than athletes in any other sport.

Shannon Young: "I think a lot of things are blown out of proportion."

Shannon Young has been a cheerleading coach for seven years. He says accidents are pretty rare. And the statistics are based on time lost for an injury, not permanent damage.

They also say football still racks up the most catastrophic injuries with 126 from 1995 to 2000. Cheerleading only had eight in the same time period.

The tossing and tumbling is far from risk free. But cheerleading coaches say they take precautions to make sure its safe.

Shannon Young: "I think as long as you as a coach take the proper steps in teaching your kids, your kids will be safe."

Cindy Berner has two kids on the floor, her ten-year-old daughter is a "flyer" - one of the girls who gets tossed in the air. She admits sometimes its a little unnerving.

Cindy Berner: "Sometimes you do... but we do everything we can to make it as safe as possible and any sports dangerous I don't care whether its riding a bycicle or this or football... anything is. There's always a risk."
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