While cheerleaders may not affect the outcome of a game, they've come to play an increasingly important role in the culture of sports.

With the year coming to a close, we look back on the highs (and lows) of cheerleaders in 2012.

2012: The Year In Cheerleaders Slideshow


Anna Watson

Watson, who attends the University of Georgia, is almost certainly America's strongest cheerleader. She can bench press 155 pounds, squat 255 pounds and dead lift 230 pounds.


Jalyessa Walker

A Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and a former cheerleader University of Texas at El Paso, Walker recently shattered the mark for consecutive backflips.


Atlanta Hawks cheerleader

This boy (later identified as Al Horford's brother) was quite excited to get an up-close look at an Atlanta cheerleader.


Jamie Woode

Woode fractured three vertebrae and broke one rib in a stunt-gone-wrong on Nov. 13 in Orlando. She is currently in rehabilitation and is expected to make a full recovery.


Patience Beard

The story of Beard, an Arkansas cheerleader who had her left leg amputated at age 9, inspired the nation this fall. Although she was a cheerleader in high school, Beard did not get a free pass at Arkansas. She was one of just five freshmen to make the team.


Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders

Perhaps not surprisingly, cheerleaders were all over the "Call Me Maybe" craze. Not one but two groups of cheerleaders recorded their own videos. And for reasons that are immediately obvious, the videos were huge hits.


Rachel Wray

The former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader made headlines recently when she announced that she was trying MMA.


Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders

Two members of the Colts cheerleading squad, Megan M. and Crystal B., shaved their heads for leukemia research after the team raised $22,000.

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