Let's talk about box collars!

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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Let's talk about box collars!

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Tue Feb 19, 2013 4:25 pm

In the past few weeks, you've probably gotten an email or seen posts on Facebook discussing box collars. I would like to try to lay out a fairly unbiased overview of the issues. I have not personally used one of these collars, I am basing this off reports from coaches I have talked to and reviews I have seen online. Please feel free to post your own experiences and thoughts here!


Brief History

Box collars became a requirement for high school facilities about 10 years ago, along with bigger pits and some other rules designed to make the event safer, after a series of pole vault fatalities and catastrophic injuries in 2002.

However, there was never much in the way of specification as to what made an appropriate box collar. You could make your own, and some were good and some were very bad. Several manufacturers jumped into the market, and some were very good and some were very bad.

Several years ago, the PV subcommittee of the ASTM decided to tackle the issue. The ASTM makes voluntary standards for things. All kinds of things from pipes to playground equipment to baby stuff, etc. They do not make rules. Groups who make rules will often look to the ASTM standards for guidance. These meetings are held once a year in the fall. Anyone can attend, and to vote you need a $75 ASTM membership.

After his daughter had some bad box experiences, Jan Johnson decided to tackle the issue of building a better box collar. He spent years testing and refining the design of his new box collar, you can see more about his work here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pole-Vau ... 20?fref=ts Gill Athletics has been selling his box collar for a few years now, the SafetyMax collar.

Last fall, the ASTM PV subcommittee finalized their standard, and were able to jump through the appropriate hoops within the larger ASTM organization to get it ratified or whatever. NO box collar on the market at the time met the standard, not even the SafetyMax collar. The standard requires the inside edges of the box to be covered like the SafetyMax collar, but the force that it needs to be able to withstand was greater than what any collar offered.

As of yesterday (2/19/13) Gill Athletics is now selling a SafetyMax+ box collar that has been tested and meets the ASTM standard for box collars: http://www.gillathletics.com/store/prod ... r?part=719 Retail cost for this collar is $600.


Rules

What brought this discussion into the forefront was the NCAA's decision to make this new ASTM collar mandatory beginning December 2013. Although this has not been 100% finalized yet, everything I have heard indicates it will be. The NCAA was accepting comments on this a few weeks ago, only from NCAA coaches, and my understanding is that all of the comments against it were from people who had not actually tried this style of box collar.

I have not heard of any movement yet within the NFHS to make this mandatory, but I am sure they are watching the issue closely, and it's undoubtedly going to come up soon.

There is currently no momentum within USATF or the IAAF to make these mandatory at that level.



What is driving this?

There is much speculation that Jan Johnson and Gill Athletics talked the NCAA into requiring a product that our sport doesn't need. That's not exactly true.

There are lots of products in T&F catalogs that are not required by rules. Equipment manufacturers and salesmen market them. Some are valuable safety tools and some are just silly. If getting a rules committee to require a certain product was easy, we would have a LOT more rules about pole vault equipment! The line between marketing a product and lobbying for a rule change is blurry sometimes. I don't know what all went on behind the scenes with the NCAA's decision, but I know that the decision was largely driven by lawyers.

Our sport has suffered from several lawsuits over the years. The most relevant one to this issue is the Brandon White lawsuit of 2009. This went all the way to trial and we lost. Which is completely ridiculous, but that's life in America: http://polevaultpower.com/forum/viewtop ... =47&t=3771

THAT LAWSUIT INVOLVED A BOX

Lawyers and insurance companies want to make changes so that they don't lose any more lawsuits. THAT is the number one thing driving this issue.



Concerns about the new collar

Here are some of the various concerns about the new box collar that I have seen brought up in various locations:

- It makes the area in which you can plant the pole smaller, and therefore less safe.

The collar does not touch the bottom of the box. For most plants, it does not appear to affect pole movement at all. For a high late plant, like a high schooler with really poor technique might use, it's possible that contact might be made with the collar, but I've seen videos of this happening and there was little negative impact on the vaulter, no worse than what they normally experience with a crappy plant. These types of plants often result in the pole striking the side of the box and then dropping down, or even missing the box entirely. For a beginning vaulter, the new collar gives them a narrower visual target for planting the pole which may be a good thing.

All of the reports I have heard from coaches who have used this type of collar in their facility have been positive. They have not had problems with the pole getting stuck on the collar or anything like that.


- The collar will contact the pole and slow pole rotation, especially for longer poles.

There just doesn't seem to be any evidence of that, as long as the collar is positioned properly. This would be a concern with any collar, not just this particular design. If the pole makes any contact with the collar material, it doesn't seem to have a noticeable impact on pole rotation.

I have only heard this complaint from one coach who actually used the collar, in a meet only. The host coach denies it being a problem and none of the other schools who have competed there have reported a problem with it.

There are lots of videos available that show close ups of poles bending with this collar in place.

I am not saying it's impossible that this could be a problem, just that none of the evidence seems to indicate it actually is. Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of jumps have been taken at facilities with these collars, both in practice and in meets, and if this was a widespread problem, it would have appeared by now. I am open to evidence that it is a problem, please share if you have any!


- This style of collar is a visual distraction, especially for mental vaulters.

This is true for some vaulters. The coaches who have used the collar report that even their most mental vaulters get used to it within a few vaults.

That type of vaulter is always going to be distracted by something. Not all front buns extend to the same length. Not all runways feel the same. The wind doesn't always blow the same direction. Sometimes the sun gets in your eyes.

This is a legitimate concern, but not a significant one IMO.


- This collar is expensive!

Yes it is. It's probably not going to be a deal breaker for most colleges, but I've coached at small colleges where $600 is a BIG purchase, and one that has to be planned for. I don't think that forcing everyone to buy an expensive piece of equipment within a few months is a good idea.


- Do we really need this?

Good question. We all know that the box is one of the most dangerous places to land, that SERIOUS injuries occur there. But true catastrophic injuries in the box have been rare the past 10 years. One NAIA athlete was paralyzed when he landed in the box in practice. One high school athlete landed in the box with his body, but hit his head on the pit and suffered a brain injury from which he recovered. Those are the only two catastrophic box injuries I know about from 2003 to present.

But have there been serious injuries? Yes. Broken ribs, vertebrae, limbs, etc.

Will there be benefits to a better box collar? Probably.

Is it worth the cost? I don't know. While this probably won't make or break most college programs, it would be much more challenging for the average HS track program to afford one.

Are there other ways we can make the sport safer? YES! Coach and vaulter education is not adequate in this country. Box injuries are some of the most preventable injuries out there.

Would that satisfy the lawyers and insurance companies? Probably not. They like quick fix band-aids that are easy to show in court. At the end of the day, the insurance companies are the ones that hold the fate of our sport within the US in their hands.


- Can I make my own box collar that meets the ASTM standard?

No, at least not in a cost effective way. To meet the standard, it has to be tested that it conforms to certain force impact ratings, and these tests cost more than it would cost to buy a box collar at retail.

- Why are these collars so expensive?

I don't know the exact cost breakdown, but here are some of the factors:
- The cost of the high-tech foam is quite expensive per square inch.
- The cost of assembling the collar. This is not mass produced in China.
- Salaries and benefits for the many employees involved with production and sales.
- Rent on the buildings.
- The cost of years of research and development.
- The cost of conducting tests to ensure the product meets the ASTM standard.
- The markup for dealers

At the end of the day, no one is getting rich off of this, not Gill and not Jan. How many college facilities are there with pole vault? A few hundred at best, and there's no guarantee that they all will comply with the rule in time, plenty of colleges ignored short pegs and rounded crossbar ends for years…

If it becomes mandatory at the HS level, the demand would be a lot higher, so maybe then the venture would be a little more profitable, but it's still not going to be anything that people are retiring off of.


- Can other companies make a box collar that meets the ASTM standard?

Yes. I'm sure there are creative ways to get around the patent, or it can be licensed.

My guess is that it's not going to be worth the investment for other companies unless the NFHS makes them mandatory, but no one is stopping them, it's just a business decision as to whether or not it is a financially viable venture.


- When is the next ASTM PV subcommittee meeting?

I believe it will be November 14, 2013 in Jacksonville, FL. Anyone can attend, to vote you need to join the ASTM which is $75.


- I just don't like any of this. What can I do?

Getting involved with your local/state HS coaches Association is a really good place to start. If we want a say in what the rules are, we have to be involved throughout the year with the organizations that make the rules.

I will post here and on Twitter/Facebook when I learn of upcoming rule changes and opportunities for people to provide input.

If you have used one of these new style box collars, please comment here with your experiences, good or bad!

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Re: Let's talk about box collars!

Unread postby PV2020 » Tue Feb 19, 2013 9:31 pm

Things that would make me happy:

ASTM made the standards that is great, they essentially improved on Jan's design to make sure they used a better material. However the majority of the people doing the testing were trying to prove there was nothing wrong with it. Anyone that has looked into scientific research knows when you are confirming someones research the best way is to try to prove them wrong, when you can not prove them wrong, you assume they are mostly right. This being said...

1) Let the new ASTM be on the market for a year or two, lobby to have it put into a few big meets (Tyson, Pre, Millrose.. ect). Then the coaches who don't want it will still have to have their athletes use it a few times and then let the world make up their mind on if they like it or not. Although there may have been thousands of jumps on the box, it is still pretty regional (I have never seen one in person) so the test are still not by a large group or sample of vaulters (statistically speaking). This will allow athletes from coaches with different technical models an experience levels to see the box in action. Then when people see if it makes any difference with the big guys, they can decide if they like it.
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2) Get rid of the patent! If Gill just made a new one modeled off of ASTM standards, ASTM pretty much made the criteria although they did base it off of Jan's design. This makes it look more like a marketing ploy and more like they are actually trying to help the pole vaulting community. If ASTM made a standard for the shape and size of a football, Nike would not be able to patent that design and be the only supplier of footballs to anyone in the NCAA.
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3) The cost:

I don't know the exact cost breakdown, but here are some of the factors:
1) - The cost of the high-tech foam is quite expensive per square inch.
2) - The cost of assembling the collar. This is not mass produced in China.
3) - Salaries and benefits for the many employees involved with production and sales.
4) - Rent on the buildings.
5) - The cost of years of research and development.
6) - The cost of conducting tests to ensure the product meets the ASTM standard.
7) - The markup for dealers


1) and 6) -The new Safety Max+ is listed at $600 dollars, while the old one is listed at somewhere around $530 give or take a bit, I lost my catalog.
What does this mean? That means for the old one that does not meet the ASTM standards, they did not have to pay for high tech foam, and they did not have to pay to have it tested. Which means if that is what is causing the cost increase in the old Safety Max to the Safety Max+, all of that testing and high tech foam is about $70.

However the old box collar was $243 dollars. And the old Safety Max was around $530 give or take a bit, I do not have my catalog with me. The old Safety Max did not meet regulations because it used the same vinyl and foam and was untested just like the old $243 collar. That means they were charging close to $300 more for the slightly larger size as well as research and development (which was pretty much all Jan).

The new Safety Max+ is only $70 more than the old Safety Max, meaning all the cost from 'new high tech foam' and 'ASTM testing' adds up to about $70 per collar (which I doubt they are being charged).

2) 3) 4) and 7) Are all cost that went into the $273 collar and should not increase.

So if they are going to have a mark up of $300 for research and development, I am fine with that if that is Jan's % that he is getting. But if he worked out a deal where he gets 50% of profit for design, he needs to get a job as an Agent because that is awesome!

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

I rest mainly on number 1 though. Let it go Beta for a while and let the free market determine if it works or not. IT IS A GREAT START towards making pole vault safer, however, you do not have to get it right the first time to be successful. Maybe the overall design is awesome but there need to be a few tweaks done before it becomes required for everyone to drop $600 on one.

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My personal opinion of the collar, having seen the 4 inch tapered collar at Penn State is that the slant needs to be greater than 105 degrees. This is because the pole tip slides slightly away from the back of the box some and does not always fit snugly into one of the corners.

In the Gill video you can see that the pole hits the matt and squishes it in a little on a few jumps. Just like a lot of people want to know. How much is it touching the mat preventing the pole from rolling in? A towel in the box used to put people on bigger poles, so I can only assume that a high density foam that pushes against the pole will have the negative effect.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... LbukrA5rSU

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Re: Let's talk about box collars!

Unread postby vcpvcoach » Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:14 pm

Once this is passed by the NCAA, it will trickle down to the high school level. As a high school coach who sees school that refuse to by one pole a year to better their vaulters, this will kill many hs vault programs. In my conference, two schools will drop the vault if this collar is mandated just because of the cost. $300 might be palatable to HS AD's but $600 is too high for their tastes.

With that being said, I will put in a request for this collar when it becomes mandated because I was at clinic with Jan Johnson this past weekend and I like the fact that it will make the box area safer and it didn't seem to effect the vaulters.

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Re: Let's talk about box collars!

Unread postby VaultPurple » Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:27 pm

I actually do not think the concept is all that bad, they just needed to leave the idea out there longer and leave the idea in beta before lobbying to make their current design a rule. Just a few minutes of trigonometry and basic knowledge of the imperfect world of pole vaulting tell you the taper needs to be AT LEAST 120 degrees.
I drew up a schematic of the current Safety Max that is tapered to match the 105 degree angle of the box. Then I went off the theory that if the pole tip did not slide to one of the corners and gets pushed back slightly when it hits the edge of the box. Two things that do not always happen in a successful vault, but could happen in what would otherwise be a good vault.
In the picture you can notice that the pole tip sits 3cm from the bottom of the box and in the middle of the box. In this position, when the pole bends out to the side it makes a 120 degree angle with the right corner of the box. I personally believe that it could go even farther so they would be better off making it closer to 130 degrees. The taper of the box really has nothing to do with the safety concept because as they are advertising, the wings are what is keeping the people out of the box, everything hard will still be covered.

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Re: Let's talk about box collars!

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Wed Feb 20, 2013 1:50 am

PV2020 wrote:1) Let the new ASTM be on the market for a year or two, lobby to have it put into a few big meets (Tyson, Pre, Millrose.. ect). Then the coaches who don't want it will still have to have their athletes use it a few times and then let the world make up their mind on if they like it or not. Although there may have been thousands of jumps on the box, it is still pretty regional (I have never seen one in person) so the test are still not by a large group or sample of vaulters (statistically speaking). This will allow athletes from coaches with different technical models an experience levels to see the box in action. Then when people see if it makes any difference with the big guys, they can decide if they like it.


I agree with this, except that you are mixing governing bodies. Pre is an IAAF meet, Millrose USATF, and Tyson NCAA. The NCAA is the only one who is taking action on this at this time.

I 100% agree that the timeline on this was stupid. I think two years of adjustment would have been better, and allowed the NCAA to identify any unexpected problems that might crop up. All the NCAA has to do is say that these collars will be used at Regionals and Nationals during the adjustment period. Any coach with vaulters who might make it to that level are going to get one to practice with.

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Re: Let's talk about box collars!

Unread postby PV2020 » Wed Feb 20, 2013 2:50 am

rainbowgirl28 wrote:
PV2020 wrote:1) Let the new ASTM be on the market for a year or two, lobby to have it put into a few big meets (Tyson, Pre, Millrose.. ect). Then the coaches who don't want it will still have to have their athletes use it a few times and then let the world make up their mind on if they like it or not. Although there may have been thousands of jumps on the box, it is still pretty regional (I have never seen one in person) so the test are still not by a large group or sample of vaulters (statistically speaking). This will allow athletes from coaches with different technical models an experience levels to see the box in action. Then when people see if it makes any difference with the big guys, they can decide if they like it.


I agree with this, except that you are mixing governing bodies. Pre is an IAAF meet, Millrose USATF, and Tyson NCAA. The NCAA is the only one who is taking action on this at this time.



That was intentional. Only NCAA is requiring it, but I do not think the others are banning it? Usually showcasing your product on a big stage is the way to get people confident in it. I think a lot more college coaches would be accepting of the collar if they saw all the elites from the USA and around the world using it and not having any problems.

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Re: Let's talk about box collars!

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Wed Feb 20, 2013 5:25 am

There's basically zero support for this box collar at the professional level at this time, it's not realistic that those meets would use this collar anytime soon.

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Re: Let's talk about box collars!

Unread postby PVJunkie » Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:11 am

PV2020
2) Get rid of the patent!

My personal opinion of the collar, having seen the 4 inch tapered collar at Penn State is that the slant needs to be greater than 105 degrees. This is because the pole tip slides slightly away from the back of the box some and does not always fit snugly into one of the corners.

In the Gill video you can see that the pole hits the matt and squishes it in a little on a few jumps. Just like a lot of people want to know. How much is it touching the mat preventing the pole from rolling in? A towel in the box used to put people on bigger poles, so I can only assume that a high density foam that pushes against the pole will have the negative effect.


Patents are an important part of any businesses success. It insures that the time and expense invested is protected and provides an incentive to continue to develop exciting new products. Without a patent anyone could just sit back and wait for someone else to take all the risk, invest all the time and fork out all the money only to knock off the product and steal the idea. Without patents there is little incentive for development.

You should pursue your increased angle theory and do some testing. The ASTM members fund their research/testing out of pocket so you would not be at a disadvantage in testing your theory.

The video I shot is regularly being taken out of context. To the trained eye it is clear that the poles in those videos are recovering way past vertical. This is because they were shot during a drill we call "vault for distance". Smaller poles are used from a shorter run and the focus is on the plant and creating pole speed. The pole rolls well past vertical and the landings are in the back part of the pit. They are 440 and 460 poles rolling way past a typical vault to illustrate that even in the most extreme conditions the collar has little effect on the pole.

While a steeper slope angle would lessen the potential of contact the current angle has not been shown to cause an issue. The greater angle would also decrease safety by increasing the area where the foam would have a less effective rating.

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Re: Let's talk about box collars!

Unread postby PVJunkie » Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:23 pm

Something to think about.

It seems there are a lot of people hung up (for good reason) on how this collar will interact with the pole in what is now defined as the bend cavity. Keep in mind that the sloped design around that area is an improvement over previous collars and the box hugging pits that claim to negate the need for a collar. Those all contain a 2 to 3 inch vertical component (no slope at all) immediately around the bend cavity. When properly positioned to cover the hard surfaces as required by the rules (we will ignore the lack of force spec for any of these designs) these designs contact the pole much earlier than the new tapered one.

These 2 to 3 inch tall obstructions that contact the pole before they contact the top back of the box have never been identified as an issue. Maybe I am missing the point and there is some unique difference that can be explained better.

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Re: Let's talk about box collars!

Unread postby JDVAULT92 » Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:03 pm

I am concerned as a pole vault official that there is going to be a shift of liability to myself. Let's say this new collar, which is to wrap inside the box is not inctalled properly or shifts or if a vaulter's pole tears it and another vaulter's pole gets stuck inside the tear and they end up getting injured, am I going to be held responsible? I can just see this new collar being more of a nuisance to the vaulter and an issue for us officials than it will help make the event safer. Will the new collar work with all company's style pole vault pads, or are the schools buying new pads as well? Also, I know I am going to end up going to a meet where this new style box collar won't be in place, do we suspend the meet in this case? Just a little unclear of how this is going to play out...definitely a lot of questions.

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Let's talk about box shape!

Unread postby Divalent » Tue Apr 02, 2013 11:33 am

One of the problems with designing an effective and inexpensive box collar to minimize injury potential is that it has to deal with a "defect" inherent in the shape of the box itself: the sharp angles along sides and back top margins of the box.

Those sharp angles focus the energy on any body part that hits them to a very small area, and so result in much higher forces than would occur if the impact energy were distributed over a larger area. Thus, you need more padding to effectively blunt the enery-focusing aspect of this part of the box. Yet this element of the shape of the box is not necessary for the box to function as a pole vault box. It doesn't need to be a sharp edge, and it doesn't need to be concrete-backed metal.

A box collar that covers these areas is a very good idea, but it sure would help if a more safety-minded box would be designed as well. It could be something that is just phased in over time as new facilities are built and/or older boxes are replaced (rather than be a mandated change by some deadline). But it just seems to me that when some unnecessary element contributes substantially to the risk, it makes sense to evolve towards a less dangerous design.

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Re: Let's talk about box collars!

Unread postby charlie » Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:03 pm

ALL the NEW UCS pits need NO box collars because they designed the pits to fit the box!!!! Boy, how brilliant was that!!!!!!


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