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State Supreme Court says cheerleading is a contact sport; first such ruling in country

A State Supreme Court decision that calls high school cheerleading a contact sport is the first ruling of its kind in the nation.

The National Cheer Safety Foundation says it means that Wisconsin cheerleaders will no longer have to worry about getting sued when their airborne stunts fail.

The justices ruled unanimously that cheerleading is covered under a state law which prohibits those in recreational contact sports from suing each other for accidental injuries.

An appeals court ruled otherwise last year. And families of cheerleaders were told they'd need special insurance policies if the Supreme Court upheld that ruling.

Instead, the justices said Brittany Noffke of Holmen had no right to sue spotter Kevin Bakke. He accidentally failed to catch her when she fell off another cheerleader's shoulders in a routine she was practicing for the first time in 2004.

The Supreme Court also said Noffke could not sue the Holmen School District and its insurer, even though the cheerleaders' adult advisor was not around at the time of the mishap.

The court said the school had no legal duty to make sure a spotter was in place or that safety mats were provided - which they weren't.

Justice Annette Ziegler said she didn't buy Noffke's claim that contact sports should only be defined as the roughest ones, like football or hockey.

Noffke's lawyer was disappointed in the decision.

A recent North Carolina study found that cheerleading caused two-thirds of 100 catastrophic sports injuries involving high school girls since 1982.