The Dangers Of Pole Vaulting


Pole Vaulting Padding At Its Regulation Size.

Jack Fearnside, Writer

Pole vaulting is a dangerous sport for high school and college athletes. Schools are working to improve the rules to make it more safe. Many schools are implementing bigger pits (padding) and helmets to decrease chances of injury. Are these rules implemented in the high school track and field environment?

The pit, which is padding for the vaulters to fall on, is not large enough in many schools. According to NCAA, “In some cases, you have a concrete curb where the track surface is near the landing area. Those areas should be padded. If you have some other man-made object there, it should be padded. Any hard and unyielding surface needs to be covered.” said Will Freeman, the head men’s track and field coach and the chair of the committee at Grinnell College.

The American Society for Testing and Measurement recommended to schools that the pit be at least 21-feet and 5-inches wide by 16- feet and 6-inches long. Studies found that of the 34 deaths from pole vaulting, 32 of them could have been completely prevented if these measurements were adopted.

A junior pole vaulter at Vista del Lago, Cameron Gonzaga, was injured at Sierra College in March 2019. He fell backwards off the pole and landed on his head resulting in a concussion and a spinal sprain. He has recently decided that he will be participating in track and field once again, but is limited to non-contact sports due to his injuries. “I wasn’t able to drive, go to sadies, or do normal things,” said Gonzaga.   

Then there is the padded helmet, which would decrease the chance of the athlete being injured from falling on their head. Many states, like Wisconsin, already have this rule applied in high school pole vaulting. Here at Vista del Lago, they don’t have a required padded helmet rule. “They should have padded helmets to decrease the risk of head trauma,” said Gonzaga.

 The track and field committee is considering an assistance rule. When a medical team treats an athlete at the end of a event, the person treated is automatically disqualified. This new rule allows a medical team to be present at the pole vaulting event to treat the athlete at the end of the event without the athlete being disqualified. “Someone more qualified than a coach should be making medical decisions. Medical people need to be allowed to do that, and we don’t want to penalize the athlete. As long as we don’t give them an advantage, it should be allowed,” said Freeman. “We need to determine if the student-athlete can finish the race.”

Going forward Vista del Lago and coaches are working to decrease risks of injury through making safer padding and adding helmets which will allow athletes to better protected through these sports.