A career-ending shoulder injury hasn’t dampened the spirits of a Columbus East High School cheerleader who remains steadfast to her team during her recovery.

East senior Macayla Faulkner, a cheerleader since fifth grade, is still attending high school cheer practices and basketball games, but her physical activities are limited.

The 17-year-old sustained a tear in her shoulder during a cheer routine at East’s Oct. 8¬†football game against Jeffersonville, played at Lucas Oil Stadium. The incident occurred when Faulkner was airborne and fell during a stunt the team was performing, she said.

She has been down this road before.

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Faulkner went through two ankle surgeries, one during her freshman year and another during her junior year. In both instances, she landed on her ankle wrong, tearing tissue, Faulkner said.

Her latest injury, this time a tear in her shoulder, required an orthopedician to close a gap with five anchors that Faulkner said will stay in place forever.

She was not anxious to jump into another surgery, initially waiting two weeks before getting checked out by a doctor after the pain in her shoulder had gotten worse last fall.

Away from cheerleading, the need to wear a sling on her left arm has hindered Faulkner’s ability to drive and perform other tasks that are routine for most teenagers.

“I have to basically do all my stuff with my right hand,” she said. “Everything is limited.”

Had the decision been left solely to Faulkner’s mother, Christi, she said she would have kept her daughter out of cheerleading after the second ankle injury.

And now after a third injury during her daughter’s high school career, “I really just honestly feel like her body couldn’t take anymore,” Christi Faulkner said.

Dangerous sport?

A study released in January 2016 by the American Academy of Pediatrics looked at cheerleading injuries at high schools across the country. The study found that while the overall injury rates in cheerleading are lower than for most high school sports, cheerleading injuries may be more severe when they do occur.

Jim Lord, executive director of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators, said multiple studies have supported the idea that cheerleading is among the safer athletic activities.

“Like every sport, cheerleading does have risk. And it’s important to recognize that in order to follow the procedures that are in place to keep cheerleaders safe,” Lord said. “Safety is the primary reason we exist. We review and revise safety rules every year, using experts in the field and utilizing the data available.”

The organization also works with the National Federation of High School Associations and the NCAA to educate cheerleading coaches on the latest rules changes and safety procedures, Lord said.

Faulkner said she recognizes the risk of injury for cheerleaders.

“It’s like any other sport,” she said. “You can get injured.”

Her recovery, which could take up to four months, will involve the grueling component of physical therapy.

But for right now, Faulkner remains upbeat.

“If I wasn’t a senior, I would probably still do it again,” she said.

Macayla Faulkner

Age: 17

Year: Senior

School: Columbus East High School

Parents: Christi and Ray Faulkner

Cheerleading career: She has been involved in cheerleading since the fifth grade and has cheered at East since her freshman year.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com