April 28, 2011
A Wisconsin Court Answers this Question
Katharine M. Nohr, Esq.
Nohr Sports Risk Management, LLC
You may have heard about the appellate decision that was issued on January 27, 2009, Noffke v. Bakke, 2009 WL 173491 (Wis.), in which the Supreme Court of Wisconsin addressed the question of whether cheerleading involves physical contact under a Wisconsin statute. The following summary provides the key facts and legal analysis so that you will know how this case fits into your own risk management planning.
Brittany Noffke, a high school varsity basketball cheerleader, fell backward, striking her head on a tile floor while practicing a cheerleading stunt without protective mats. Noffke was the “flyer” in the stunt, which required her to stand on the shoulders of other cheerleaders who formed the “base” for the stunt. Kevin Bakke, another cheerleader had the position of “post”, which assists the flyer in getting into position on the base, initially supporting most of the flyer’s weight so that her feet may be secured on the base’s shoulders, and also served as a spotter. Noffke was injured when Bakke let go of her without moving to the front to prevent her from falling. The cheerleading coach was busy supervising another group of cheerleaders and so was not there to assist in preventing Noffke’s fall.