The Husker Spirit Squad will allow basic stunting and tumbling starting this fall, the Nebraska Athletic Department announced Friday, more than two decades after a Husker cheerleader suffered a serious neck injury while attempting a backflip.
The new policy will allow tumbling and basic one-person-high stunting but will not allow other elements, such as basket tosses and multilevel pyramid stunting, the Athletic Department said.
The department said adding more elements to regular routines would enhance the experience for Husker fans and bring the program’s skill level in line with other cheer programs in the Big Ten conference, the University of Nebraska system and the state’s high schools.
“Since I arrived at Nebraska nearly 18 months ago, I have consistently heard from fans and our cheer squad alumni about the importance of allowing our spirit squad to add more elements to their routines,” Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos said in a statement. “Our first priority is the safety of our spirit squad members and our staff has worked diligently on a plan to re-introduce stunting and tumbling, with safety at the forefront.”
The department plans to devote a full-time athletic trainer to the Spirit Squad and will provide support in strength and conditioning and performance nutrition.
Restrictions on stunting and tumbling were first placed on the Husker Spirit Squad in 2002. In December 1996, a Nebraska cheerleader, Tracy Jensen, suffered neck injuries when she landed on her head during a practice session. She was paralyzed from the neck down, but she was eventually able to walk again and regained limited use of her arms.
In 2001, a negligence lawsuit filed by Jensen against the University of Nebraska was settled for a lump sum of $600,000, plus $150,000 a year for 10 years. The settlement also included $40,000 for vocational rehabilitation not covered by insurance companies.
The squad last featured stunting and tumbling in spring 2007.
Jensen could not be reached Friday.
NU will phase in skills that are regularly performed by cheer squads across the United States, according to the department.
The Nebraska Spirit Squad posted its 2019 tryout requirements before the approval of basic stunting and tumbling. Stunting and tumbling will not be required elements at the spring tryouts.
The Spirit Squad will also start actively recruiting male cheerleaders, with up to four spots available beginning this fall.