BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- While mainly seen on the sidelines, cheerleaders are often as physically tested as the athletes on the field. One athlete says the dedication to the sport she loved came at a price.
Twenty-three-year-old Missy Martin was once a cheerleader at UC Berkeley, until she says she suffered multiple concussions while cheering for the squad.
"Every day I have a headache," said Martin. "Yesterday, specifically, I was dealing with nauseousness. I couldn't work on my homework."
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Now the ex-cheerleader is filing a lawsuit against the university and her former coaches, claiming the coaches "bullied" her to keep cheering at both games and practices after she suffered her first concussion in October 2017.
Missy says the injury occurred when she accidentally got kicked in the head. According to the complaint, Missy developed a "severe headache" and eventually other symptoms such as "nausea, dizziness, confusion, and sensitivity to light and sound." She alleges that her coaches "failed to take her head injuries seriously" and that she was even instructed "not to go to a doctor."
While most of the national conversation around head injuries centers around football, concussion risks for cheerleaders are on the rise. According to a recent study, concussions are the leading injury among high school cheerleaders, accounting for nearly a third of all injuries (31 percent).
Now Missy is hoping her lawsuit will create stricter safety measures to be put in place. "The biggest thing I want is change for cheerleaders. I want them to be safe, I want people to take them seriously, and I want them to treat them like athletes."
USA Federation for Sport Cheering is also named as a defendant in the suit. While UC Berkeley would not go into specifics alleged in the lawsuit, it says Cal Athletics has a comprehensive policy on concussion management, including concussion education and protocols for concussion management.
Ex-cheerleader sues UC Berkeley, claiming her coaches ignored concussions