(Stop That Pole) from falling on sharp edges. Pole vault meets should be ‘catching’ on about catching poles, but not yet

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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Bruce Caldwell
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Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2003 3:19 pm
Expertise: It is all about Pole Vaulting. I even catch the competitors poles!
Lifetime Best: 15'8"
Favorite Vaulter: Kjell Issakson, Jan Johnson
Location: DFW TEXAS

(Stop That Pole) from falling on sharp edges. Pole vault meets should be ‘catching’ on about catching poles, but not yet

Unread postby Bruce Caldwell » Tue Jun 21, 2016 9:55 am

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Pole vault meets should be ‘catching’ on, but not yet
Posted by: Bruce Caldwell on Jun 13, 2016 at 2:07 PM
Today’s competitive pole vaulters have no doubt never heard of the term pole catchers. That’s right, say what? At any given meet, from the prestigious Diamond League to parent-draped bleachers at the local middle school level, they’re inconspicuously absent from competition. And, don’t mistake pole catchers with bartenders – the often nebulously noticed volunteers who anxiously await the opportunity to rundown a fallen crossbar.

Who are these would-be pole catchers, you ask? Simply put, pole catchers are heroes; the person(s) responsible for preventing a vaulting pole from hitting the crossbar arms, standards or, worse, runway edges of the solid ground below.

In the United States, we naively let vaulting poles fall to the ground, striking anything on their way down. European rules say you cannot touch the pole at all once it is released. Track & Field’s governing bodies collectively have the misguided notion that vaulting poles do not need to be caught.

Industry insiders and manufacturers, who respectfully disagree, are continuously lobbying for the NFHS and the NCAA to make catching the pole a part of the rules, as they relate to fairness and athlete safety. Note, we’re not advocating for poles to be allowed to dislodge crossbars from their lofted perches. It’s the duty of each vaulter to push the pole away from the bar.

We fully agree that there is a need for bartenders to replace the crossbar after misses, so why not someone to catch the vaulting pole headed towards the ground, away from the landing pad? Psst! It is even stated on the vaulting pole itself to “catch the vaulting pole.” As carbon-fiber experts in the design and manufacturing of tubular products, we have engineering data to fully understand the complexities and idiosyncrasies of pole design and proper care.

Safety is the biggest concern. Pole failure occurs for many reasons, but there is no excuse for not taking action on what is recognized as a proven preventative measure. Keep in mind that a vaulting pole is a thin, tubular rod of carbon fiber or glass molded to be strong in its flexural capacity. In pole vaulting, athletes are getting stronger and faster, placing greater stress on the primary tool of their trade: the vaulting pole. Thus, the potential for catastrophic failure is magnified 100 percent, even with the smallest self-inflicted, unobserved abnormality.

Just like a wine glass is thin but durable, it is yet fragile if struck the wrong way or until the weak spot has grown bigger. You don’t notice the abnormality until it is too late.

The potential for catastrophic pole failure could result in the following scenarios.

Hitting the crossbar in a failed attempt, weakening the top 18-20 Inches of the pole.
Falling against a standard in a miss or make, weakening or creating a weak spot center of the pole.
Hitting the runway ground or sharp ends of the vault box in any effort to jump over the bar, creating a weak spot 36” up from the bottom of the pole.
Pole not stored properly that is scratched or spiked, creating weak spots all over.

Today’s high performance, technologically advanced poles do not break from small weak spots, in fact many poles work with a small weak spot for years, but then like a car windshield the weak area is strained, expands and eventually breaks. Sometimes on subsequent jumps or another jumper using the pole and it fails to hold the load – usually when you’re trying to get the most out of your jump.

If you’re passionate and serious about the sport of pole vaulting, you’re always on that journey to get better. We want to ensure your favorite pole is there for the duration of the ride. Therefore, we encourage you to carefully inspect your poles before and after each meet, and always ask someone to catch your pole.

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