My 16-year old twin daughters are on the junior varsity cheer squad at their high school. They are learning how to do pyramids, back flips, and other floor tumbling routines. One of the girls is the smallest member on the team so she's being tossed in the air for what they call the "basket toss." Just how safe is this maneuver?

Compared with contact sports like football or ice hockey, cheerleading is fairly safe and low in injury counts. Even so the newer, more complex cheering style of the last 10 years requires a lot of skill, strength, and coordination among the group.

The basket toss is performed by throwing the cheerleader into the air by three or four tossers. She may go anywhere from six to 20 feet high. This stunt is perfectly safe if the group catches the girl. Landing on a hard gym floor can lead to head and neck injuries.

Because of accidents there are now safety limits on the basket toss. Only four throwers are allowed. No flips are allowed. Safety guidelines include using a landing mat, requiring special training for the spotter, and placing one of the throwers behind the flyer during the toss. Mini-tramps and spring boards are not allowed.

Your concerns are well-founded. In the year 2000 there were an estimated 1,258 serious head injuries and 1,814 neck injuries in cheerleaders around the U.S. Talk to the cheerleading coach and find out what safety and practice guidelines they are following.