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					Free Enterprise: Cheerleaders are priceless benefit                                             

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           Free Enterprise: Cheerleaders are priceless benefit
           By Savannah Morning News
           Created 2008-08-29 23:30

           It was high time. Last night, thousands across Georgia basked in the familiarity of the real Friday night lights. High
           school football is back, and today's college match-up between Georgia Southern (Go Eagles!) and top-ranked UGA only
           adds to the excitement after nine months of anticipation.

           However, there is one thing that may have muted the euphoria. One of the traditions of the game made big - and not
           good - news last week. A study from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at UNC had cataloged
           almost 70 fatal or life-threatening injuries due to cheerleading in high school and college sports in the past 25 years.

           The basis for the widely quoted conclusion that cheerleading is "the most dangerous sport for girls" was provided by
           new data from the National Cheer Safety Foundation. This 25th annual edition of the report includes a special section
           on cheerleading and bluntly states that "of the 112 direct catastrophic injuries to high school and college female
           athletes, ... cheerleading was related to 63 or 56.3 percent."

           The ensuing discussions of amateur sports' values and risk assessments had a familiar ring to an economist's ear. After
           all, in the wake of many accidents that lead to lawsuits, it is often economists who are asked to help juries and judges
           make proper decisions regarding the economic losses involved.

           It may sound ghoulish to some, but concepts such as valuing damages in cases of personal injuries or wrongful death,
           work life expectancy valuations or even the value of a statistical life are routine for economists when they serve as
           expert witnesses.

           Of course, everybody's first inclination may be that there can be no monetary equivalence for any lost life. However,
           reality often requires such analyses in order to, at least economically, make a person or his/her surviving dependents
           whole under the law.

           The question, then, becomes how such a determination of lost wages is made and how one could possibly answer the
           question as to how much people, on average, value their lives.

           The latter is especially important in a situation in which one wants to find out whether a proposed safety regulation
           (childproof lighters, asbestos ban) is economically efficient or too expensive compared with the potential number of
           lives saved.

           Hundreds of studies have been published about this, and they frequently use a clever approach: categorizing jobs
           according to their risk of injury and/or death and measuring wage differences.

           This variation, the compensating differential, can then be used to estimate the value of a statistical life.

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Free Enterprise: Cheerleaders are priceless benefit                                         

           A widely cited 2003 paper by distinguished Vanderbilt economist W. Kip Viscusi put it at approximately $8 million.
           Using actual wages paid, that number would typically be far lower.

           No matter the exact figure; in light of this body of research, it becomes even more obvious how much value
           cheerleaders add to one of our favorite national pastimes.

           Apart from the question of whether some of the more perilous routines should, perhaps, be performed less often, it is
           quite evident that these amateur athletes provide priceless entertainment value. In fact, if they would not perform
           without pay on Fridays and Saturdays, then they would be - according to standard value of life analysis - unaffordable
           to most programs.

           There is some food for thought for the half-time spectacle.

           Michael Reksulak teaches economics and public finance in Georgia Southern University's College of Business
           Administration. He can be reached by e-mail at mreksula@georgia [1].

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