Cheerleader Injured in Practice

* First-year taken to hospital with compressed neck after falling off pyramid

Paramedics rushed Katherine P. Bolton '01, a member of the Harvard cheerleading team, to Mt. Auburn Hospital in an ambulance Saturday morning after she injured her neck during cheerleading practice.

Hospital administrators said that Bolton was taken to the emergency room in the morning, treated and released two hours later.

Bolton said in an interview yesterday that doctors in the emergency room took X-rays of her head and neck and determined that her injuries were not serious.

"It hurt right when it happened...I was scared for a minute," Bolton said. "I'm fine now." Bolton said she was sore all day Saturday.

The cheerleading squad was practicing stunts for the football game against Holy Cross later that afternoon. Bolton was spotting for some of the other cheerleaders while they formed pyramids.

L. Elaine Chestney '98, president of the cheerleading team, said that another cheerleader fell from the pyramid onto Bolton's head and "compressed" her neck.

She said the cheerleaders immediately notified the people at the front desk of the Malkin Athletic Center, who Chestney said overreacted and told the police that Bolton had severe head injuries.

"Accidents like this happen and the best thing to do is to get up and try again," Chestney said.

Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 expressed concern for Bolton.

"I was notified of this incident, about which I am of course concerned, shortly after it occurred yesterday morning," he wrote in an e-mail message. "I am thankful that the cheerleader's injuries were not more serious."

Lt. George A. Hill of the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) questioned the lack of supervision at the time.

"One of the problems...is that they don't have a coach," Hill said. "They're going by what they learned in high school."

Chestney confirmed that the squad has not had a permanent coach for several years. The cheerleaders have begun a new policy this year, however, of hiring a professional coach to teach the team on specific occasions.

Lewis said that he investigated the incident on Saturday with the University Athletic Department and looked into the safety measures already in place in the department.

"I will be following up with the Athletic Department to see if any new procedures should be put in place to reduce the risks of similar incidents in the future," Lewis said

Chestney did not attribute the accident to lack of understanding of safety precautions.

"Everyone knows the safety precautions, and they were taken," Chestney said. "I don't think [Bolton] was used to spotting in this position."

Bolton said the accident could happen anywhere.

"In any circumstances it's easy for someone to slip," she said.

Chestney said that accidents are uncommon in cheerleading.

"People fall from stunts, but usually they're caught in the proper way," Chestney said. "This doesn't happen very often."