“5, 6, 7, 8, 1, 2, 3, 4, LET’S GO W”–up went a stunt group, and right back down. This stunt group lifted their flyer to do a challenging “lib extension” on the sidelines of a football game on Thursday, October 18. As the lift collapsed, Soph. Lily Baker took a foot to her head.
Parents, students, and fans sitting in the stands were wrapped in blankets watching as Baker’s teammates helped her up and asked how she was feeling.
She brushed off what she thought was a minor injury. She didn’t want to draw attention to herself, so she stopped crying and shook it off.
After the game, she felt terrible. “I had a huge headache and was easily disrupted by any noise or light that would occur.” She wondered if there was something wrong, but she put it aside and tried not to think much of it. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m probably just hungry and need water and should go to sleep early,’ and I did,” Baker said.
The next few days went on a repetitive schedule: eat, school, cheer practice, sleep, and suffer constant headaches. She finally decided to let her mom know about her abnormalities with her head, and within an hour, she was at the hospital getting checked out.
There they tested Baker, and she and her mom waited patiently–hoping for the best. Baker and her family were disappointed when the doctor diagnosed her with a severe concussion and made her visit the athletic trainer daily and sit out of practices. She received a doctor’s note to give to her teachers so that they would take it easy with her.
The concussion affected her in more ways than she would have thought and longer than she expected. Her Thursday night games cheering under the lights were her favorite nights, but after this experience, they turned into a reminder of something she never wanted to relive.
In the sport of sideline cheer, cheerleaders fall and failure is common, but results aren’t usually so severe or damaging.
Baker was the main base in her stunt group, meaning she lifted her flyer in the air with the help of a side base and a backspot. Her group practiced their stunts multiple times, and most of the time they would hit it perfectly and hardly fall out. Unfortunately, that night was one of the few times it fell out, and the one time they didn’t hit their stunt, Baker got seriously hurt.
She soon came to the realization that she could no longer do the “easy” tasks she was doing the day before visiting the doctors. Everything from there on out suddenly became harder for her–mentally and physically– from one accidental kick. “Having a concussion was really hard for me. I wasn’t able to hang out with my friends or family as much because my head would hurt the whole time and ruin it for me.”
Daily struggles Baker faced included reading, focusing, and even seeing, sometimes. She also had a hard time gathering her thoughts and falling asleep at night. “I was having a hard time with everything. I often felt sad because I felt like I couldn’t do anything,” Baker said. She was also scared to tell her team, but she knew she had to the next time she saw them.
When Baker told her teammates about her concussion, they felt overwhelmed and upset for her. “Without her help, it was a lot harder to be productive because we had to stunt with someone who wasn’t usually in our group and that made it hard to get used to her lifting me instead of Lily,” flyer Frosh. Melanie Hernandez said.
Although Baker did therapy, her concussion did not improve quickly. It took weeks for Baker to be cleared for activity, but a second impact led to greater problems.
This time, a teammate doing a cartwheel kicked Baker in the head, knocking her to the mat. Baker was holding back tears as she sat and asked a teammate for ice. Her hands were shaky as she dialed her mom’s number and iced her head. “I was completely over the injuries, but I didn’t want to leave the sport. I shouldn’t have practiced, but I was so bored. Having my team be there for me really helped a lot though,” Baker said. Her coaches and teammates comforted her while she waited for her mom to arrive.
Due to the two hard kicks in the head, Baker had to be in a wheelchair at one point and had extreme sensitivity to light and loud noises. She found herself mad and frustrated with everything she did. She had a hard time focusing on academics, cheer, and on others when they were simply talking to her.
“One time after both of my hits, I felt so dizzy that I had to go home from school. I got home and laid in bed for hours because I was too scared to fall asleep,” Baker said.
Unfortunately, something done every day could lead to extensive problems like what happened with Baker; she was doing something fairly familiar, but unluckily it didn’t go as planned, and she ended up being affected by it for a long time. All she can do now is therapy to get better and gain skills back, and she is doing just that.
More than seven months after the accident, Baker still does not feel fully recovered. She continues with therapy, and she remains frustrated by the devastating results of such an apparently minor incident.
Baker says even though she has been through a lot with cheer conflicting her life, she won’t stop pushing to a good recovery even if it takes longer than expected. Being cautious is something she is taking very seriously, but she is at ease with her life that is finally returning to normal.