Cheer coach investigated after forcibly pushing girls into splits

DENVER, CO (WMC/NBC) - Denver Police Department is investigating several videos that show a recently hired cheer coach forcibly pushing girls into an extended split position.

In at least one of the videos, the cheerleader can be heard crying out in pain and asking him to stop.

"He was pushing, like, with his other knee on my back to try and keep my posture straight," freshman cheerleader Ally Wakefield said. "It was tearing my ligaments and my muscle at the same time."

The cheer coach, assistant cheer coach, high school principal, assistant principal, and Denver Public Schools deputy general counsel have all been placed on leave.

In a statement, Superintendent Tom Boasberg said:

"We absolutely prohibit any practices that place our students' physical and mental health in jeopardy."

Candace Nurse is an assistant manager with the Memphis Pride Cheer with 15 years of coaching experience under her belt.

"That to do something like that to a kid when they're screaming 'stop, no,' it really broke my heart seeing a kid have to go through that pain," Nurse said.

In the video from Denver, Colorado teammates are seen holding down a cheerleader and the coach behind her, pushing her down, forcing her into a split.

Nurse said this isn't right and the resulting injuries could mean a long recovery.

"If you get a torn or ripped hamstring it could take weeks to recover from that, it could take a year," Nurse said.

She said when working on flexibility, you shouldn't work for gains through brute force.

"Flexibility won't happen in one day, it won't happen in a week," Nurse said. "It's going to take time with the kid stretching with their coaches properly and also stretching at home."

Nurse said she talks with each cheerleader during the stretch, working with them to find their stopping point. She said that point can be uncomfortable, but it should never be painful.

She also encourages parents and other cheerleaders if they see something that doesn't look or sound right speak up.

"If you see one of your friends or another cheerleader on your team doing something they're not willing to do, then it needs to be reported immediately," Nurse said.

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