The weight rating rule is making the PV less safe

Discussion about ways to make the sport safer and discussion of past injuries so we can learn how to avoid them in the future.
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The weight rating rule is making the PV less safe

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Thu Jun 07, 2012 12:54 pm

I helped officiate at our small school state meet two weeks ago. I volunteer to be the person who weighs the kids and checks their poles. I am the perfect person for this job because I am female (always nice when weighing girls) and I know more about pole vaulting poles than just about anyone.

I don't agree with the rules about weight ratings, weight labels, etc, but I do believe that if a rule is in the rulebook, the fairest way to enforce it is to be consistent with it.

I had to disallow about a dozen poles. Some of the poles were very old and looked dodgy, but those vaulters had been using them safely all season. Others were in great shape, just didn't have the right markings.

I always do my best to educate coaches about how they can get the right weight label to meet the current rules. All of the coaches at this meet are very generous about sharing poles. If I have a pole with me that will work for that kid I offer to let them use it.

These are the smallest schools in Washington. Many of them don't even have pole vault pits, their kids have to drive to another school or club to practice. The schools don't have much money. Sometimes that old pole is all the kid has had available to them, and the fact that they were able to qualify to state on it is a testament to their hard work and dedication.

Here's the thing. This is supposed to be about safety. Nothing I did at State made the event safer.



Pole vaulting poles come in a wide range of lengths and stiffnesses. Here is a chart that compares the relative stiffness of poles: http://www.skyjumpers.com/articles/pvpr ... table.html

The weight ratings on the pole are arbitrarily decided by the manufacturer, as a way to guide coaches into finding the right pole for their athlete. Saying a pole is rated for 140 pounds doesn't mean anything until you also know the length of the pole. An 11' 140 pound pole is a lot smaller than a 13' 140 pound pole.

The goal of requiring athletes to use poles rated at or above their weight was to lower handgrips by forcing them on shorter poles and ultimately to increase the number of athletes landing safely in the middle of the pit.

Unfortunately, this has not been the result.



What else has happened since the weight rating rule was created? Girls started pole vaulting. Girls are slower than boys. Girls are weaker relative to their bodyweight than boys. Some HS boys struggle to find a pole rated at or above their weight that they can rotate into the pit, especially beginners or big strong boys who weigh over 170. MOST high school girls struggle to use poles rated at or above their weight, especially in the early stages of their career.

Wrestling is the only other high school sport in which it is acceptable to weigh female athletes. This makes sense as it an integral part of determining their divisions of competition.

Why do we weigh female pole vaulters? Ostensibly for their safety. Does it make them safer? No.

What are the downsides of weighing female vaulters? For most it creates stress. Many will engage in unhealthy eating habits in order to lose weight. While eating disorders are very complex, and one trip on the scale will not cause one, the stress of a weigh-in will certainly not be beneficial to an athlete who is vulnerable to developing an ED.



Why hasn't the weight rating rule made the event safer?

The biggest factor is the limited budgets of high schools. A high school is likely to have vaulters that come in a variety of heights and weights. In a perfect world, they would each have their own set of poles in a variety of weights and lengths and we would all be happy. Unfortunately, poles cost $300-$500 each.

The second factor is that many coaches don't understand the relative stiffness chart very well, and order a pole that is too long for their athlete.

The result has been that many high school athletes are using poles that are too big for them. This results in athletes not landing deep enough in the pit, and increasing the chance that they will land in the box, the most dangerous place to land.



But that's only a problem for beginning vaulters, right? Once they get past that initial hump of being able to use a pole at their weight, they're safe, right?

Wrong. A pole's weight rating is one of many variables that determines whether or not it is appropriate for that vaulter to use. A pole rated above a vaulter's weight, can still be way too small and cause an athlete to land too deep in the pit or even fly off the back of the pit.



But aren't old poles dangerous? Wouldn't breaking a pole be the worst possible thing that could happen? So it's good to have rules that disallow old poles, right?

Wrong. A properly cared for fiberglass pole vaulting pole does not expire. There are poles from the 70s that are still being used safely.

Breaking a pole is bad because poles are expensive and you can't insure them against breakage. Breaking a pole is bad because it can injure the hand of the athlete who breaks the pole. Breaking a pole is bad because it is possible (though rare) that one of the pieces of broken pole will fly away and hit someone.

But breaking a pole almost never results in a catastrophic injury. The athlete's momentum carries them forward into the pit. The pieces of the pole will almost always fly away from them and not hit them.

Pole breaks can be prevented by taking proper care of poles (scratches in the fiberglass can cause breaks) and not allowing athletes to overbend poles. A pole can be overbent and broken even if the pole is rated above the athlete's weight. The weight rating rule has not stopped pole breakage.



What has made the event safer in the past 17 years? Bigger pole vaulting pits. Padding the standards and other hard surfaces around the pits. Increases in coaching education.

What has not made the event safer? Weight rating rules. Rules about labels and stickers and engravings on poles. Rules about uniforms and jewelry.




Where should we go from here? How can we actually make the event safer?

Number one is always coaching education. Every state should require each pole vault coach undergo some sort of training. This should be implemented at the state level, Delaware has vastly different needs than Texas. Each state should be willing to take action if coaches fail to meet this requirement. That's right, I'm giving you the stinkeye WIAA for failing to enforce your PV coaching education rule.

Number two is a crazy idea, but it would solve so many problems. Let's completely eliminate ALL rules about weight ratings, weight labels, etc. If an athlete can land safely in the pit, let them use that pole.

Jan Johnson has a proposal that would allow us to do this and would make the event safer. Tim Reilly in Washington state has been advocating for this for many years as well. A safe landing zone can easily be marked on the pole vault pit, using tape, spray paint, etc. A vaulter who has an unsafe landing gets a warning. If they get three warnings, they have to stop vaulting and are awarded with the best height cleared.



No other country requires athletes to vault on poles rated at or above their weight. The NCAA and all other collegiate bodies in the United States do not require this. USATF only requires this at youth meets because they try to be consistent with high school rules. The IAAF does not require this at any level.



What would the effects of this rule change be?
- Schools could allow a wider range of athletes to try the pole vault, they would no longer be limited by the weight ratings of the poles in their shed. This would benefit smaller/poorer schools who own less poles.
- Schools could use any pole vaulting pole that was getting their kids safely in the pit, regardless of age.
- High school vaulters would no longer be faced with stress about their weight and would reduce the pressure on them to engage in unhealthy eating habits or to cut weight.
- Coaches would be forced to learn how to get their athletes to land in the middle of the pit. It is no longer "get over the bar at any cost."


What would the negative consequences of this change be?
- Schools may spend less money on pole vaulting poles. It is good for schools to buy at least one or two new pole vaulting poles every year in order to increase their selection which increases safety.
- A good, safe vaulter might be off one day and find themselves out of a meet early. This will be especially unpopular when it comes to qualifying meets at the end of the season. It is a price worth paying if it prevents injury to that athlete.
- It adds a potentially subjective element to officiating.


Please add your thoughts, comments, stories, below.

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Re: The weight rating rule is making the PV less safe

Unread postby ~jj~ » Thu Jun 07, 2012 3:48 pm

:dazed: Nice job Rainbow!
Here are some opinions regarding the weight rule.
[b]No Standards for Weight Ratings
In short, there is no basis for a weight rule. No ASTM specification , no industry standard, no nothing! In fact, the weight values of vaulting poles by the various manufactures are all over the place, especially in the smaller sizes. They are extremely un- reliable which make it difficult for novice coaches and parents to order the correct poles.
My feeling has been that the manufactures promoted this idea back in the 80’s and 90’s as a way to sell more poles needlessly. It was also a way they opted out of replacing broken poles.
My Recommendations
I think the federation and the state associations should get out of the enforcement business on the issue of what pole a vaulter should use. You should simply recommend that vaulters use a pole and hand grip appropriate for their ability levels. Have the coaches sign a sheet or initial a doc at event check in that says they are doing so.
Secondly, I urge you all to add my required landing zone rule (RLZ) in place of the weight rule. The RLZ has been researched and developed out here over the past couple of years. It is cheap, easy to enforce, and clearly brings pole vault safety into the proper focus: Don’t land near the edges of the pads! It gives officials parents and coaches a basis for the removal of those who are jumping dangerously.
Both coaches and officials like it,. In my newsletter emails this spring the vast over whelming majority supported the idea.

Common Sense
From the very beginning of fiberglass poles it has been understood that the pole may accommodate a larger user by simply lowering the hand hold. However, the weight rule in its current format forces the purchase of many un-needed poles that are already in school inventories but only have a single weight rating. This also puts most of us coaches in a bind regarding the proper teaching methodology. Most of us teach proper technique by using a short run and a low hand hold, on a pole normally well below the vaulters weight. As the vaulter progresses we gradually increase the run length and hand hold and pole stiffness. But in the beginning every beginner is always on a pole under their body weight. This teaching progression is by far the safest and most economical method to teach beginners modern fiberglass pole vault technique.
However, to do so we must ignore the weight rule which puts us in a position of liability.

How come if were not seeing practice vast amounts of practice injuries (almost all our injuries are in meets) how can it be said the weight rule is good for safety where it is almost universally ignored?

Prediction
I also personally think it is just a matter of time until an accident happens as a result of kids having to use in appropriate pole in a meet situation, but one that meets the weight label requirement. A scenario similar to the Spokane boy I email you about earlier this morning.


Weight assignments are based on little or no actual science

From the beginning the weight values assigned to poles were simply arbitrary names to describe a pole, its lengths and stiffness and so on. They were not intended as maximums. For instance in 1963 Sky Pole called John Pennel’s pole a 16’ 170 because that was the size he jumped best on as the world record holder at that time. The industry was certainly caught be surprise in 1994 when the weight rule was first announced at the St. Louis USATF convention.

Enforcement
Last week I was at Southern Section HS finals down at Mt Sac. One of the top girls in the state with a PR of 12’ had her poles thrown out because she was on borrowed poles which did not have weight labels. They were probably made before the “sticker rule” and since they have no weight rule in college no one thought that they would be eliminated. I could not help but think how unfair it was for her. The etchings on the pole told us it was a 14’ 155, (at least 15 pounds above her body weight)
Two years ago my vaulter (the #1 kid in all of D4) had his entire series of Pacers eliminated because the etching and the labels did not agree (they were relabeled in Best Flex in 2000. I personally hear many similar stories each season. How can these kinds of scenarios be good for the sport? Kids should just be allowed to jump on the poles that work for them. It really should just be between them and their coaches. BTW, No such rule exists in International competition, or the NCAA.

.

Long term Plan for change
My long term plan is to work toward an ASTM specification for the purpose of assigning weight values for handhold reductions below the max grip line. This will allow the manufactures to use their current methodology for weight value assignment, but will allow heavier vaulters to use the same poles by lowing their grips. We have experimented with this at our club since the very early days of the weight rule in the mid 90’s. We have collected much data that shows clearly that each 1” reduction in hand hold height equals 1.6 pounds in weight value assignment for most places on the manufactures flex charts. So my goal will be to produce a ASTM specification for a yard stick, or ruler type devise which any coach or official may use to measure down from the max grip line to place a grip limit line on the pole based on the users weight. Already some of the key manufactures are in agreement! However, I’m sure the ASTM process will take several years till final completion, as has our current box collar project. Yikes!

Weight Rule; the result of a mistake ?
In my opinion the NFHS weight rule was probably a rush to judgment based upon very little factual data. The chart below shows the known catastrophic injuries dating back to 1971. It shows that in fact vaulters landing off the rear of the landing pads increased dramatically starting with the advent of 13’ deep landing pads in 1986. This was a result of an ASTM typo that the NFHS put into the rule book. Later in 1994 NFHS interpreted the excessive off the rear of the landing pads as a pole problem, when in fact it was a short and narrow landing pad problem combined with lots of hard surfaces around the perimeter. Up until 1987 most min landing pad sizes were 15’ deep, and in fact all the off the back of the pad type accidents were on these short pads.
Vaulters landing off the side were also a problem during this time frame. However, those two kinds of accidents have been virtually eliminated as a result of the padding increases of 2003. The weight rule in effect has had no effect on the nature of these kinds of occurrences. It has been the increase in padding that fixed the problem.
Since 2003 our problem has been in the box area type accidents. I have seen with my own eyes, and expert witnessed many of these. They are the result of 4 kinds of scenarios: 1. vaulters hands slip off at take off because of under step or insecure grip on the pole (this also bring up the tape rule topic and its enforcement) 2. Broken pole 3. Gripping to high and over bending a pole and landing short. 4. Jumping on too stiff a pole and landing short.


I don’t think the weight rule is as much a safety issue as my two associates below. Rather I think it’s a cost issue to our schools. However, I do think it’s a good idea to encourage a maximum hand hold rule based upon the individual’s weight and the size of pole he or she is using.


Jan Johnson
Sky Jumpers Vertical Sports Club


Jan,

I can not make it, but after coaching at many levels for many yrs I would much prefer the "safety sector" to having a high school weight rule. Almost all of my high school girls (and many of my boys) can not jump on poles over their body wt....and they are never ever dangerous. It is rigorously dangerous for me to try to force them onto poles that they may come up short on. The larger pits we have now make the sport a lot less dangerous, not the high school weight rule. Out of 1000's of vaults my kids took this year, there were only 2 "dangerous" vaults; and that was when my little sophomore boy, who weighs 110 lbs., moved up to a 13' 30 at a meet (jumping at 12'). I have had no dangerous vaults using poles too light--especially with the larger pits. I corresponded with an old friend of mine, the coach at Virginia Tech, Bob Phillips, and this is what I wrote him.....

"As for the wt rule-- I have seem people bounce out of the pit (remember the old air pits!), but not get hurt. However if you have the data, then that is a big problem I guess Jan does not think helmets will solve that. All of the nasty injuries I have seem have come from coming up short. I teach new kids how to jump, and the only way to learn how to bend a pole initially is on a pole under your wt (i.e. illegal in a meet). Many vaulters than get better and move on to poles above their wt. No problem. Those are the vaulters at V tech! But the slow ones can not. So they are stuck with either stiff pole vaulting or trying to jump on poles that will make them come up short...maybe into the box.

But here is another example of how that rule does not make vaulting safer (it is an intrinsically not a perfectly safe sport)----- me. Last yr before I blew my ACL out, I jumped 12' 6" in a meet here at UCSD. I weigh 150 lbs. I ran from a 5 step, and I have lost a bit of speed with age ( :-) ). I cleared 12' 6" on a 14' 145 holding about 12' 8". If it were a high school meet, I would have been disqualified. Stupid rule and wrong. And I have been jumping for 45 yrs!"

Great stuff!!!! so obvious that the larger pit size has reduced "too light pole" accidents to almost none. Coming down in the box (as you know) can often be caused by trying a pole that is too heavy for you. To me-- that is the danger....I am glad you are working on the padded box. I really do wish you could get them to rescind the HS weight rule. With the bigger pits--that is no longer a major concern....the major concern is coming up short--often the result of a pole too heavy.......

keep me posted.

Mike
good luck!
Mike Hogan
PhD Exercise Science UCSD Med School
45 years of vaulting and coaching at HS and college level
Many time Nationals Master Champion




Jan,

If the RLZ rule replaces the current weight limit rule I am whole heartedly in favor of it.

Making the vault safe is a matter of education and motivation.

In most basic terms I tell young vaulters:

Right run.
Right pole.
Right grip.
To vault safely and well.

Of course there is much more to the equation, but as I demand that all my vaulters land in the current PLZ, those simple rules have kept my athletes safe. Since the rules do not deal with right run or grip, we have to examine which pole is considered the right pole

Whoever wrote the current pole rules completely ignored the fact that a 12' 150 is not a 14' 150 is not a 16' 150 and that the manufacture rating is only a guide to be used in conjunction with other factors. Merely grabbing a pole rated "at weight" can be more dangerous than using a "lighter pole". The MOST dangerous place for a vaulter to land is the box. For beginning vaulters, especially at schools with far too few pole options, the pole rated for their weight may well put them in danger of coming up short. A shorter pole, also rated for their weight, can easily launch them out the back or off the side. To repeat myself... A vaulter can just as easily put themselves in harms way on a pole rated above their weight as a pole rated under their weight. The RIGHT pole is not determined solely by the weight rating on the band. The right pole is the one which SAFELY maximizes performance.

Young athletes and inexperienced coaches are motivated by heights and clearances, by wins and losses. A well defined and enforceable RLZ will guide vaulters into safer vaulting habits precisely because victories and PRs are dependent upon safer landings. And the RLZ will give officials a clear and concise way to remove dangerous vaulters from a competition when they are putting themselves in harms way.

Benefits of removing the "weight rule" in favor of a RLZ rule are as follows:

It encourages (enforces) safe behavior.
It encourages safe pole selection.
It allows schools to supply safer poles at less cost because fewer poles will be required.
It allows financially strapped schools who have dropped the vault to reenter the event (fewer poles,less cost).
It allows judges to protect unsafe vaulters by stopping them vaulting.
It reduces paperwork.
Athletes will no longer "suck weight" for pole vault weigh-in.

Jan... just to be clear... if we add another rule or cost to the event, there is a danger more leagues and schools will drop the event as too costly and dangerous. As we both know, girls have saved the vault... the pole weight rule is most onerous to the developing girl vaulters. We should continue to foster their inclusion in the event. All sports have risk, all sports have cost. We must creatively minimize both cost and risk, or the vault will wither and die on the vines of high school cost cutting and litigation fears. We need to be clear that the RLZ rule is simpler, safer, and cheaper than the current pole rule.

See you again at CIF finals I hope,


Ben Browder
Oaks Christian Vault coach

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Re: The weight rating rule is making the PV less safe

Unread postby Bloom » Thu Jun 07, 2012 4:21 pm

I think coach education is the key.

In order to vault safely almost every beginner needs to be on a pole that is below their body weight and/or super short in order to get into the pit and learn how to bend a pole at all. By the time an athlete becomes a relatively advanced vaulter, they will blow through smaller poles and be on poles well above their weight automatically. That is, unless they have gone to poles that are too long.

The caveat: a coach must be able to see the pole bend and the distance traveled into the pit and do something with that information. If you cannot see the problem, the rating on the pole will not help you.

I think that manufacturers should get together and A) create a standard labeling system that is not proprietary to each brand of pole and B) this system should be based on relative stiffness and ease of penetration as per that sky jumpers chart. So that a pole is rated not at a given weight but on a scale of stiffness that is relevant to its weight and length.

i.e. label all poles that are the same difficulty to turn over with the same rating, so that a 13' 150 and a 12' 160 (as a rough example) might get the same rating (lets call it a rating of "4" )even if they were from different manufacturers. the number wouldn't really mean anything, it would just be different than a 5 or a 3.

Still the coaches would have to watch for over bending, etc.


I have noticed a serious problem with altius pole labeling in this same regard. I once jumped on a 14'3" 195 altius and blew through it and one trip down the runway later i was rejected by a 14' 190 ucs. The longer, higher rated pole was significantly softer and easier to jump on. I would have needed a 200+lb rated altius to get the same rejection as the 190 ucs of comparable length.

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Re: The weight rating rule is making the PV less safe

Unread postby botakatobi » Thu Jun 07, 2012 4:44 pm

"Enforcement
Last week I was at Southern Section HS finals down at Mt Sac. One of the top girls in the state with a PR of 12’ had her poles thrown out because she was on borrowed poles which did not have weight labels. They were probably made before the “sticker rule” and since they have no weight rule in college no one thought that they would be eliminated. I could not help but think how unfair it was for her. The etchings on the pole told us it was a 14’ 155, (at least 15 pounds above her body weight)
Two years ago my vaulter (the #1 kid in all of D4) had his entire series of Pacers eliminated because the etching and the labels did not agree (they were relabeled in Best Flex in 2000. I personally hear many similar stories each season. How can these kinds of scenarios be good for the sport? Kids should just be allowed to jump on the poles that work for them. It really should just be between them and their coaches. BTW, No such rule exists in International competition, or the NCAA. "

Jan,

Keep adding weight labels to those poles that don't come with them.
I agree, it is absurd that a pole be confiscated at this level of HS meet.
If you noticed, I didn't enforce this rule when I ran it.
But, I do remember giving a tap in warmups to some girl named Johnson who happened to win one year.

CC

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Re: The weight rating rule is making the PV less safe

Unread postby ~jj~ » Thu Jun 07, 2012 4:49 pm

Ha ha ha . Thanks for that tap.
~jan~ :D ;) :dazed:

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Re: The weight rating rule is making the PV less safe

Unread postby akakeleko » Thu Jun 07, 2012 5:51 pm

I couldn't agree more. I travelled to Montana for a track season where the head track coach had been coaching the vault for years. I took over coaching from him and trying to undue years of unsafe techniques was an uphill battle. It was all about the poles. The previous coach refused to let any kid even touch a pole rated below their weight. Not for drills, warm-ups, NEVER.
As a result I saw many many kids land in the box. Every kid set the standards at 40cm! I never once saw a kid land in the "safe zone". The problem was state-wide. 40 was a "normal" standard setting, so was landing near, or in, the box. It was a miracle more kids didn't get hurt. The emphasis was on poles, not grip, not technique. What I saw was these poor kids stiff-pole-ing, they were not strong or fast enough to bend the big poles. There was no way to practice on small poles, take short runs, or ever learn how to vault. I hate this rule and it needs to be abandoned for what it is, dangerous.

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Re: The weight rating rule is making the PV less safe

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Thu Jun 07, 2012 7:35 pm

Bloom wrote:I think coach education is the key.

In order to vault safely almost every beginner needs to be on a pole that is below their body weight and/or super short in order to get into the pit and learn how to bend a pole at all. By the time an athlete becomes a relatively advanced vaulter, they will blow through smaller poles and be on poles well above their weight automatically. That is, unless they have gone to poles that are too long.

The caveat: a coach must be able to see the pole bend and the distance traveled into the pit and do something with that information. If you cannot see the problem, the rating on the pole will not help you.

I think that manufacturers should get together and A) create a standard labeling system that is not proprietary to each brand of pole and B) this system should be based on relative stiffness and ease of penetration as per that sky jumpers chart. So that a pole is rated not at a given weight but on a scale of stiffness that is relevant to its weight and length.

i.e. label all poles that are the same difficulty to turn over with the same rating, so that a 13' 150 and a 12' 160 (as a rough example) might get the same rating (lets call it a rating of "4" )even if they were from different manufacturers. the number wouldn't really mean anything, it would just be different than a 5 or a 3.

Still the coaches would have to watch for over bending, etc.


I have noticed a serious problem with altius pole labeling in this same regard. I once jumped on a 14'3" 195 altius and blew through it and one trip down the runway later i was rejected by a 14' 190 ucs. The longer, higher rated pole was significantly softer and easier to jump on. I would have needed a 200+lb rated altius to get the same rejection as the 190 ucs of comparable length.



We don't seem to be having any injuries due to coaches switching brands of poles and not having the poles feel as expected. In a perfect world, it would be great if we could re-flex every pole in the country and come up with a universal rating system, but that is not realistic in a country as huge as the USA with hundreds of thousands of poles out there.

Even if we could do that, it would not fix the underlying problem of a coach either lacking the knowledge or lacking the ability due to the rules to choose an appropriate pole to ensure their vaulter is landing safely in the middle of the pit.

I find that generally coaches have a pretty good idea how the poles in their shed compare to each other, even when they are different brands.

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Re: The weight rating rule is making the PV less safe

Unread postby VaultPurple » Thu Jun 07, 2012 9:14 pm

Two vaulters show up to a meet.

One vaulter has Pole Brand A and the other has Pole Brand B. One has a 12' 125 and the other has a 12' 130. Both vaulters weight in at 126 lb.

However the vaulter with Pole Brand A has the 12' 130 and the manufacture only labels their poles in 10 pound increments while Pole Brand B labels their poles every 5 pounds.

The vaulter using the 12' 130 has a coach that orders by flex numbers and new what a 12' 125 was but the manufacture labels that pole as a 130. So with Pole Brand A a 125-134 are all labeled as a 130.

Given this scenario one girl gets to use her pole and the other does not, even if they both would be flexed to the same exact number. Sound fair?


This just shows that the weight rating has very little to do than a real body weight number and more of whatever number the manufacturer sticks on it.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now why we have to have the rule!


High school track practice starts and the football coach who has never been to a track meet is chosen to be the coach. The school has a pole vault pit and few poles. The biggest pole is a 135. Football line backer comes over and wants to try and pole vault, he is told the weight ratings do not matter any more. Starts jumping on poles, eventually tries to grip the top to go really high, snaps the pole, lands in the box, goes to hospital, pole vaulting is banned in that county forever....

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Re: The weight rating rule is making the PV less safe

Unread postby tsorenson » Fri Jun 08, 2012 1:22 am

This is a good discussion and long overdue; thanks Becca.

I have always disagreed with the weight rule for the reasons previously stated. Vaultpurple's argument is nullified if we require some type of standardized coaching education for all PV coaches at the middle school and HS level. As a volunteer PV coach, I had to sit through (and pay for) the NFHS coaching class, as well as the steroid and concussion classes, and background checks, etc. Might as well add a test that will actually help make pole vaulting safer!

I like Jan's ideas for rating poles based on grip, but I am guessing that the overaged and underpaid officials that are in charge of enforcing the rules would be completely tipped over by a relative weight chart, even though every vaulter has known this to be true ever since poles started bending! The LZ rule is the simplest and best idea. And abolish the weight rating rule...although it has forced schools to buy more poles, which is good!

In regards to Bloom's comment about Altius poles being softer: Why wouldn't you want to make a pole that is designed to be easier for kids to roll over? I have several altius poles, and I can say that they are not likely to be unsafe or break anytime soon, even when heavy vaulters (like myself @ 200#) jump on them. Many of the HS kids I coach would be able to learn to vault safely if they had an altius pole in their weight range, because they are friendly and easy to jump on. Just look at jumpers like Andrew Irwin who learned to jump on Altius poles...once you learn the technique you will quickly progress to stiffer poles and higher grips...safely. It is a perfect illustration of why the weight rule is ridiculous...it's completely relative to the pole you are using. We've all jumped on a pole that seems super stiff/soft for its rating. For this reason, considering the silly rule as it stands, I don't understand why more HS coaches aren't using altius poles!

Abolish the weight rule and make coaching education mandatory. Keep the pits big, standards/hard surfaces covered, and maybe a LZ rule. Let the coaches decide which poles their athletes should jump on, and where they should grip, and hold them accountable if they are making blatantly irresponsible decisions. Landing in the box sucks just as bad as landing off the back of the pit! Spirit poles jump awesome when you (responsibly) hold above the weight label!

Thanks to Becca and Jan for their work on this issue,

Tom

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Re: The weight rating rule is making the PV less safe

Unread postby dj » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:19 am

good morning

this is the most meaningful discussion about pole vaulting, safety, technique, coaching or training that has been written in the last 40 years…….

How do we get it to happen???!!!!

Of course the first "issue' has nothing to do with the event, poles or coaches. It only has to do with Lawyers, Period.

From the first day we have starting "making or changing" rules we have played their game.

The original rules of pole vaulter were, you could use any pole.. any pole.. no weight, length, or compound (wood, steel, fiberglass, etc) restraints. In the 60's the "new" type of fiberglass pole was questioned as illegal (fiberglass poles of a different type had already been used in national and international competition). Why? Was it questioned. Not because of the "compound", because any compound was legal. It was because of a rule about being assisted by springs and such, originally put in place for starting blocks and apparatuses' being "dreamed" up for the jumps, Long-Triple-High.

So. There is no doubt in my mind, or from any of you, that the "rules" about weight and grip were never a road we should have gone down. Somewhere in a court of law, in a lawsuit about an injury or death this was "argued" as save/make the defendant or the prosecution some major money!!!!

Let me put it like this… flag football, wide receiver misses a hard thrown ball.. gets hit squarely in the eye.. looses sigh in that eye. Who gets sued, ball company, QB, Coach, City because it was a city league???!!!

Because I could logically show why (or why not) it wasn't the equipment but either poor judgment or poor training/coaching in these arguments, was exactly the reason I was never called in to "expertly" testify in the five law suits I was called about.

I was not going to "automatically" side with the injured or the dead parents attorney. Sounds harsh… sorry

Can we "change back" I wish and think it must be done.

Does every lawsuit in Gymnastics "side" with the injured ? why?

We changed something that should never have been changed because one side or the other needed 'something" to help them win or protect themselves.

We need "standard" coaching techniques that force the coach to work by the "logic" of the event:

if you hold to high you can get hurt. If you hold to low you could fly over the pit. if your run is not accurate 90% of the time you will fail and can get injuried, If the plant is not up, squarely "in front" of you ,with the takeoff foot just below the top hand you can get hurt.

Lawsuits always go after the "companies" or school districts so they can get more money. Making these rules has "back fired" and made it easier not harder to get/make the lawyers money.

jj I will go with any of you to these meetings.. I think I have been in the event long enough to make the correct points as strongly as possible.

I have been giving my "opinion" pretty strongly for years… at least since you have know me.. early 70's Wichita? 1974 SIU Salukis…

dj

PS.. and by the way IF we get ride of the grip and weight rules we can coach every vaulter up too 11"6" ... every vaulter, boy or girl with the same six(6) 12 foot poles!!!! 12/100 - 12/110 - 12/120 - 12/130 - 12/140 - 12/150... Every one, same six to 11"6" PR....
Last edited by dj on Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The weight rating rule is making the PV less safe

Unread postby ~jj~ » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:27 am

On the Best Flex chart the rate is six inches in grip reduction equals ten pounds increased user weight. This appears to be true for most of the length ranges except for the smallest of poles (which is actually more like 3" equal 10 pounds).
Knowing this, we could easily make a ASTM specification which describes this relationship.
Then we make a standard ASTM ruler / weight limit indicator that works for all brands. It will show how much additional weight may be added based upon how much the top hand hold is lowered.
The official can place the top of the ruler next to the max grip line and establish a max grip line for the individual user based on how much he/she weighs. Put a magic marker line on the pole and tell "homie" not to grip above that line.

Have the athletes and coaches sign the check in board saying they are using a pole and hand hold with in their ability.

This is what I'm telling the rules makers.

Jan Johnson

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Re: The weight rating rule is making the PV less safe

Unread postby ~jj~ » Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:24 am

Catastrophic Injuries in Pole-Vaulters: A Prospective 10-Year Follow-up Study :dazed:
(Digested Version of Findings)

Barry P. Boden, MD*, Matthew G. Boden*, Rebecca G. Peter, Peter M. McGinnis**, Fred O. Mueller, PhD***, and Jan Johnson MS. ****

From *The Orthopaedic Center, Rockville, Maryland, **State University of New York Cortland, New York, the ***Department of Physical Education, Exercise and Sport Science, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the ****National Pole Vault Safety Committee, Atascadero, California
Counts: words (max 6000), references (max 60)
§Address all correspondence and reprint requests to: Barry P. Boden, MD, The Orthopaedic Center 9420 Key West Ave. #300 Rockville, MD 20850 (301-424-1287; fax 301-424-5266; bboden@starpower.net).

Risk Comparisons
Pole vaulting ranks as one of the most dangerous activities according to the NCCSIR (Thomas, Mueller). In one report that analyzed the US National Registry of Sudden Death in Young Athletes for a 30-year period from 1980 to 2009, pole vaulting had the second highest number of direct, traumatic fatalities after football (Thomas). For the 28-year period from the fall of 1982 through the spring of 2010 the NCCSIR reported 1284 direct catastrophic injuries in high school and college sports (NCCSIR, 28th report). During the same time period the direct catastrophic injury rate per 100,000 athletes for all sports combined was 0.62 and 2.54 for high school and college respectively (28th report). After the 2003 rule changes the direct catastrophic rate of 0.7 (1.1 in males and 0.28 in females) per 100,000 high school pole vaulters is comparable to the overall catastrophic incidence for all high school sports. However, the rate of direct catastrophic injuries in college pole vaulters after the 2003 rule changes (28.4 overall, 42.3 for males and 11.8 for females) was significantly higher than the combined rate of 2.54 for all college sports and indicates that more emphasis needs to be placed on preventing pole vaulting injuries at the college level. For male college athletes, pole vaulting (42.3) has the highest rate of catastrophic injuries per 100,000 participants, followed by gymnastics (25.05), ice hockey (10.22), football (9.5) and lacrosse (5.28) (NCCSIR, 28th report). For female college athletes, skiing (12.46) has the highest rate of catastrophic injuries per 100,000 participants, followed by pole vaulting (11.8), equestrianism (10.85), gymnastics (4.8) and ice hockey (4.71) (NCCSIR, 28th).

Accidents off the Side and Off the Rear
All four of the athletes that missed the sides or rear of the landing pads after the 2003 rule changes were participating at the college level and landed on hard surfaces, FieldTurf in two cases, concrete with a thin layer of rubber in one case, and a rubberized gym floor in one case. Two of these cases were in noncompliance with the 2003 rule changes by using a landing pad that didn’t meet the minimum size requirements or substituting multiple high jump pads for a pole vault landing pad. In 2003 the NFHS also mandated that all hard surfaces surrounding the sides and back of the landing pad should be eliminated or covered with a minimum of 2 inch thick unspecified soft padding (ref). The NCAA has no similar rule. If the NCAA mandated a similar rule requiring soft surrounding surfaces and all schools were in compliance there may have been no catastrophic injuries from athletes missing the sides or back of the landing pad after 2003. None of the catastrophic injuries in the current or prior study occurred due to an athlete landing on a surrounding surface of grass, dirt, sand, wood chips, or 2” of padding ( ). We recommend strict adherence to the minimum landing pad dimensions and that the type of padding on the surfaces that surround the sides and back of landing pad be specified and at least two inches of padding be used.

Vault Box injuries
While the number of catastrophic injuries from athletes missing the sides and back of the landing pads decreased compared to the prior study, the number of injuries due to athletes landing in the vault box more than tripled from 0.5 per year in the earlier study (ref) to 1.7 per year in the new study (1.55 after the 2003 rule changes) and is cause for concern. The vault box survey also indicated that a large percentage of pole vaulters landed in the vault box during their career. In fact 84% of those surveyed landed in the vault box at least once and 7% landed in the vault box at least four times. Most of these pole vaulters were relatively inexperienced, amateur pole vaulters with an average personal best of ten feet and two years of vaulting experience. It is difficult to determine if these numbers plateau, increase, or decrease with more years of vaulting. The number of vaults would likely increase the chances of landing in the vault box, but the additional experience may reduce the incidence of box landings. It is likely that elite pole vaulters land less frequently in the vault box, but have more catastrophic results when they do land in the vault box from the higher heights attempted because they are falling from a higher height. It is also possible that the elite and college pole vaulters use a higher grip on the pole and therefore have a greater likelihood of a vault box landing since the execution of their takeoff speed and technique are so critical to getting the pole to rise to vertical.
Despite the survey revealing a high percentage (84%) of at least one vault box landing in inexperienced pole vaulters, there were only a small percentage of injuries requiring medical attention. Medical attention was required in only 3% of the 2,804 participants that landed in the vault box at least once. This may be explained by the fact that most jumps being attempted at the time of injury in the survey were less than ten feet so the athletes impacted the box or ground with less force on landing. The majority of injuries occurred to the ankle, heel, lower back, and knee. Although this report focuses on catastrophic pole vaulting injuries it is clear from this survey that numerous non-catastrophic injuries occur each year from pole vaulters landing in the vault box. Based on the number of participants in the survey and their average number of years pole vaulting, it can be extrapolated that there may be over a thousand non-catastrophic injuries requiring medical attention each year from pole vaulters landing in the vault box.

High School Weight Rule
There are several possible explanations for the increased rate of catastrophic injuries from athletes landing in the vault box. In 1995 the NFHS rules committee mandated that “the vaulter’s weight shall be at or below the manufacturer’s pole rating.” (ref 1994 NFHS). This rule was instituted to encourage athletes to use a lower hand hold which should reduce the bend of the pole and lower the risk of control problems such as over-shooting the landing pad, landing off the sides, landing in the vault box, and/or the pole breading. However, the stiffer poles are more resistant to rotating to vertical. If the resistance of the pole is too great for the amount of take-off energy the pole vaulter produces, the pole vaulter become stranded and may land in the vault box. In many cases the athlete reported changing to a stiffer pole prior to the catastrophic jump in an attempt to clear a higher vault. The stiffness, length, and weight of the pole as well as the grip height in relation to the athlete’s height, weight and attempted vault height requires further research to determine safe standards.
The high school and college rules state that the front edge of the vault box shall not extend above the grade of the runway. Nonetheless, one athlete reported a warped front lip that disrupted the planting position of the pole and contributed to the injury. The front lip of the vault box needs to be carefully checked before attempting any vaults. Another situation that may place pole vaulters at risk for injury is the practice of tapping or having an assistant give the pole vaulter an upward push at takeoff to help clear the bar. With appropriate supervision this practice may be beneficial during training but can lead to a false sense of security during competition when tapping is not allowed. Pole vaulting is a complex sport and coordination of speed and power of the athlete as well as timing of pole release, in particular avoiding early release, are skills that requires significant practice, expertise, and coaching.

Effects of Deeper Standard Settings Rules
In 2003 the new high school and college pole vaulting rules also mandated that the crossbar be moved away from the vault box and further over the landing pad in an attempt to reduce vault box injuries. It is unclear why this rule change was not effective, but perhaps pole vaulters are having a harder time reaching the crossbar with a higher risk of being stranded over the vault box. The ideal position of the crossbar requires further research.

Box collar
Many pole vault landing pads do not adequately cover the area immediately surrounding the sides and back edges of the vault box. The design of these landing pads allows the pole to bend without contacting the landing pad. After 2003, the NHFS required that these exposed surfaces be covered with “a minimum of 2-inch dense foam padding (box collar)” (ref) and the NCAA required that these surfaces be covered with “a collar of 2 to 4 inches of padding of uniform thickness” (ref). Many of the vault box injuries in this study occurred when the athletes landed on the exposed surfaces surrounding the sides or back edges of the vault box or a combination of these surfaces and the vault box. In spite of the NCAA and NFHS rules requiring padding in the box collar, many facilities were in noncompliance at the time of the catastrophic vault box injury in this study. One of the authors (JJ) has also noted a high rate of noncompliance with this rule at track and field meets. Therefore, strict enforcement of this rule is important, and specific standards regarding the shock attenuation capabilities of the padding used in box collars is needed.

Preventative Strategies
There are several preventive strategies for reducing the number of vault box injuries. Enforcing the existing rules requiring the box collar use is a critical first step and writing standard specifications for the box collar and its shock absorbing capabilities is next. The use of newer materials that allow greater force absorption than the standard 2 inches of unspecified dense foam should be investigated. In addition padding the sides of the vault box as well as the bottom of the vault box may be beneficial. A one piece box collar that also extends down the side walls of the vault box would not only pad the side walls of the vault box but would also hold the box collar padding in place better. The current vault box dimensions require a flare on the sides and rear to allow space for the fiberglass pole, introduced in the 1960s to bend and rotate to vertical. However, the flare on the sides of the vault box significantly increases the area of exposed hard surface in the vault box and may not be necessary to allow the pole to bend like the rear flare in the box. Eliminating the flare on the sides of the vault box or padding the interior side walls would reduce the hard surfaces and potentially diminish the risk of injury. Another change that may reduce or eliminate vault box injuries is making the vault box narrower. Requiring spotters near the vault box has been proposed but is controversial, as they may be at risk of injury from the pole or from impact with a descending athlete.

Participation Levels Indicate Higher Risk in College than HS
In contrast to the level of participation (78% high school and 9% college) at the time of the injury in the prior study on catastrophic injuries, this study identified a higher percentage of injuries in college athletes (52%) compared to high school (40%) pole vaulters (ref). If participation numbers are accounted for, the incidence per 100,000 pole vaulters was over 12 fold higher in college versus high school pole vaulters. Similarly the average age of the injured athletes in this study was 19 years old versus 17.5 years in the prior study (ref). The older age of the injured athletes in the current study may be due to the larger landing pad preventing injuries in high school athletes, whereas older college athletes are attempting higher vaults, gripping the pole higher, and may be stranded over the vault box. Unlike the prior study which reported no injuries in female athletes, this study identified 3 injured female athletes. This is likely due to the increased participation by females in pole vaulting over the past decade.

Elite Vaulters Carry the most Risk
According to the National Pole Vault Safety Committee there have been eight catastrophic injuries in the 350 male athletes in the United States who have pole vaulted over 17’6 ¾” (5.35m)since 1971 for an incidence of 2,286/100,000 or 2.3 per 100 pole vaulters. There was one catastrophic injury in the 55 US women pole vaulters who have cleared 14’ (4.25m) for an incidence of 1818/100,000 or 1.8 per 100 pole vaulters. Many of these athletes were injured while vaulting in competitions governed by USA Track and Field (USATF) rules or International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) rules. Neither the USATF nor the IAAF requires the use of a box collar or the padding of hard surfaces surrounding the landing pad. The higher catastrophic injury rate for these elite or semi-elite pole vaulters is primarily related to the higher heights from which the pole vaulters are falling. However, the high injury rate may also be related to the less stringent USATF and IAAF rules regarding padding of hard surfaces and the use of a box collar, at least for those injuries occurring after 2002.

CONCLUSIONS
The 2003 rule changes that mandated a larger landing pad have significantly reduced the number of catastrophic injuries from pole vaulters landing off the back or sides of the landing pads. However, the annual rate of catastrophic injuries from pole vaulters landing in the vault box has tripled over the last decade and remains a significant problem. Potential preventive strategies that require further research include developing standard specifications for box collars and requiring the use of box collars that meet these standards, improving box collar shock absorption materials, padding the sides of the vault box as well as the bottom of the plant box, and making the vault box narrower. The dimensions of the pole, especially the stiffness and proper grip heights, as well as the ideal position for the crossbar also require further study


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