And what can fans of T&F in general and pole vaulting in specific do about it? Thoughts?
For the record, I think it's great that they are thinking about the safety of the high school athletes but how far do we go? This is already taking the opportunity to compete in the vault away from many high school athletes.
Though I don't know how much they really help, helmets may be part of a solution. Though I have no personal experience with them, I have been in frequent correspondence with a young vaulter who wears a helmet when he vaults. He seems to be very comfortable with it. Since head injuries are the most serious, it seems like this might help mitigate the worst problems. Any opinions/experience about pole vaulting helmets?
If you fall on your head in such a manner as the Penn State vaulter did last winter nothing will save you. Not a bigger mat and not a helmet. You're gonna break your neck and you're likely going to die.
1. You have a pole vault system that is bigger than most rooms 20' wide 22' long. (this is the average size)
2. No visible hard surfaces exposed or they are padded with 2"-4" of padding. (required)
3. You have a box collar just in case the pit is moved back the allowed 3" (required.)
4. You have a certified coach supervising your training.
5. You are on a vaulting pole rated at or above your body weight. (required for HS)
There is no way to prevent catastrophic injuries such as coming straight down on your head. Two of the three deaths last year occurred because the vaulters rolled off the pits and hit their heads on hard surfaces that should have been padded. Also, Gill has just come out with a "soft box" that greatly reduces the impact of a fall into the plant box.
2. No visible hard
>surfaces exposed or they are padded with 2"-4"
>of padding. (required)
>If all the hard surfaces around the pit are covered/padded and you have proper coaching whats the need for a helmet?
Generally, I think your numbered points are excellent. However, it should be pointed out that it is not possible to pad all the hard surfaces on which a vaulter might land because the runway itself is hard, cannot be padded in the region of the take-off, and that is an area where a vaulter might land on a very poor vault, or with too stiff of a pole. This is not necessarily an argument for a helmet because I don't know how effective they would be in such a case -- probably depends on the exact nature of the fall. I am agreeing with vaulter83 that 1) it is wise to take all reasonable precautions (and I would include in that, possibly, helmets), and 2) even so, you cannot protect against all possible causes of severe injury. And I would add -- and I think this is the critical point -- that even though pole vaulting does pose some dangers even with the best possible prevention, the benefits of the activity far outweigh its liabilities.
Yeah the way I see it is that the only reason you would need a helmet is protect your head in case you hit it on something hard such as concrete or asphalt. So why not just pad those surfaces? My coach likes to make a good point about safety- guys were jumping 18'-19' on much smaller then currently legal pits 15-20 years ago but they rarely got injured because they knew if they wanted to stay healthy they would learn to pole vault safely.
>Yeah the way I see it is that the only reason you
>would need a helmet is protect your head in case
>you hit it on something hard such as concrete or
... or the take-off area, or the standards...
>My coach likes to make a good point about safety-
>guys were jumping 18'-19' on much smaller than
>currently legal pits 15-20 years ago but they
>rarely got injured because they knew if they
>wanted to stay healthy they would learn to pole
True, I think, that vaulters are generally safety conscious, but certainly not all and not in all cases. Sometimes we have to vault on a rainy day, or in other less-than-ideal circumstances which make things more dangerous. You seem to be anti-helmet because you think that other safety precautions mitigate any need for helmets. But I would argue that other precautions are not always in place, and helmets may have a place. Again, I'm certainly not arguing that they are a panacea, or that they can substitute for other sensible precautions, but just I don't want to categorically rule them out when they may have a place in the whole larger picture of pole vaulting safety.
As for previous eras, I believe that injuries, including serious ones, were just as common then as now. Sometimes they got more publicity (these wailings about pole vaulting dangers have come and gone over the years), sometimes less, depending on the moods of journalists and the public. In recent times there seems to be a kind of hysteria over anything at all dangerous that might pose serious financial liability problems. I think this is, unfortunately, a much bigger concern of school athletic directors and meet directors than the actual well-being of the athletes. The actual number of injuries is very small, as it always has been. But athletic directors and the press are in a particularly hysterical mood right now.
>And I would add -- and
>I think this is the critical point -- that even
>though pole vaulting does pose some dangers even
>with the best possible prevention, the benefits
>of the activity far outweigh its
A couple of points there. First, you are right. The benefits outweigh the risks. Second, the athletes and their parents know the risks involved. The athletes choose to participate and their parents choose to give consent knowing the risks. Is it really worth potentially killing the pole vault in high school in order to offer a slight decrease in risk? How much is this going to decrease the risk anyway?
A repercussion that I don't think has been addressed is the banishment of the pole vault in junior high school. This is a knee-jerk response to the safety issue & presently taking place routinely. This is the worst possible scenario. Keep the pole in young kids' hands so that they can learn proper technique while they are still at an age where few can get high enough off the ground to be a danger. Please keep an eye on these situations and lobby your state's coaches association to keep this from happening.
I am not against people wearing helmets if they want to but I think requiring helmets is a knee-jerk reaction by many administrators. I think there are other things that need to be done also such as coaches education that will improve safety even more.
For some really in-depth discussion of the helmet issue go to these two threads on our website:
Junior high vaulting would be great but as it is we don't even have enough qualified coaches at the HS and college level right now. Not to mention how expensive it would be for schools starting from scratch.