News Letter #16 March 1, 2014.

Jan Johnson’s Pole Vault Safety and Technique News

Letter #16 March 1, 2014.



Thanks to our staff and friends for all your help with the 22rd annual Sky Jumpers Maine South HS PV clinic Feb 14-15, 2014



How to Improve PV Safety at your facility

The five basic elements of risk management are controlling the environment; developing good basic skills; making adjustments for consistency; understanding the basic concepts of pole vaulting; and supervision.


Control risks by making the pole vault environment as risk-free as possible. This requires a daily assessment prior to actual vaulting. Here is a checklist of some of the conditions to be regularly monitored.

1. Are pads and the top cover properly fastened together? In most cases where they are not attached and buckles or straps are broken, pieces of old bike inner-tubes, clothes line or some other form of rope can be used to keep things together. Are they covered by a common top pad, so that no cracks or wholes exist upon the primary landing system?

2. Is the landing system large enough? This issue is very important when considering safety. It is perhaps best answered by considering how high the potential users of the pad are going to vault. As a rule of thumb, larger is better in vaulting pits. The width and length dimensions should be carefully considered when assessing the safety value of a pole vaulting pad. The new minimum overall dimensions for HS pole vault landing pads are 19'8" (6.0M) wide by 20'2" (6.15M) long, with no less than 16' 5" (5.00M) behind the back of the box.

The perimeter of these landing systems, where hard surfaces exist, should be padded with not less then 2” of dense foam padding as outlined by the current National High School federation rules. Old high jump or pole vault pad sections may also be used for this purpose. It is best when using additional sections to upgrade the size of landing pads to employ a larger common top pad.

Above: 4” of wood chips reduces potential force impacts by 80%. So which would you rather land on?

The padding of any and all hard surfaces around the perimeter of minimum sized landing systems is very important. Wood chips and Pea gravel are also very good options.

3. Are the standards fastened to the ground and/or counter-weighted, so they are stable and won’t tip over? Sand bags can be made from old car inner-tubes (free at any tire shop) filled with sand. Another good method to stabilize standards bases is to bolt them to 1/2 or 3/4 inch plywood so that a couple feet of the plywood fits under the outside edge of the pad. Please note that the sand sacks or plywood on the bases should not interfere with the base protector padding.

4. Is the pit in proper position? Many times during the course of practice or a meet the pad may slide back too far. The NHSF rules allow it to be only three inches behind the back of the box. It is also important to cover any hard surfaces in this area with a box collar or some suitable kind of padding. The pads could also become crooked at times. It is important for vaulters and coaches to monitor this and participate in keeping the pit in proper position.

5. The shape of the padding around the planting box is also important. Two important design features here can help minimize risk: (1) the “front buns” should extend at least to the front of the planting box, when the landing system is in proper position, and (2) the inside edges of the front buns that surround the planting box should be slanted up and away from the box to offer protection right to the edge of the box, and at the same time allow the pole to bend.

Above: New ASTM box collar set in perfect position. Reduces potential force impacts by over 90% to the most hard surfaces of any collar in existence.

6. Is the box set in the runway properly and are its dimensions correct? Does the box meet national high school federation rules? It’s a good idea to consult the appropriate rule book for this information. The most important criteria to consider are as follows:

The box should be approximately 7.8 inches deep from the top of the runway down its stop board to its bottom. It also should be approximately 16 inches across the top of the back. The sides (120 degrees) and back (105 degrees), of the box should also be slanted to allow the pole to bend and roll properly. Under no circumstances should the box ever have a front edge raised above the top of the runway. Sometimes a pole plug can get caught on the front edge or “lip,” which can be very dangerous. A vaulter who lowers his pole tip too soon, and slides it into the front of the box, can catch his tip on the lip which produce a rejection type jump.

7. Are poles in good condition? Are there any deep nicks or scratches that may compromise the integrity of the poles? Are nicks, scratches, max weights and max hand-hold marks visible? Fiberglass poles should be carried in protective tubes or cases. Storage is also important to the life span of poles. It’s best to store them on a rack inside the equipment area out of direct sunlight. 8. Are weather conditions safe for pole vaulting? Rain, sleet, snow and excessive wind can make pole vaulting too dangerous.

9. Head protection is certainly another element of controlling risk. Helmets may be worn, as an added safety measure. The helmet should be considered a personal piece of equipment that the vaulter supplies himself. It is important to note that even with large landing pads and additional padding of hard surfaces, the planting box area still remains a hazardous area for potential injury. Perhaps most important of all, a helmet should never be a substitute for proper equipment, or technique. Recently and ASTM standard for pole vault helmets has been adopted, and several manufactures are currently selling pole vault helmets. It is however important to note that the amount of protection that a pole vault helmet yields is very limited.

10. Each season, it is a good idea to consult your specific rule book regarding vaulting facilities and equipment; it offers important information regarding equipment specifications and safety.

Three basic sets of rules exist for pole vaulting in the United States. They are the NCAA rules (colleges), The USAT&F rules (domestic youth and open competition), and the National HS Federation rules, (high school competition).

11. Recently the ASTM has set a new specification for box collars. The American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) sets standard specifications for thousands of products and materials used in a wide variety of applications world wide. ASTM F2949 for plant box collars reduces forces impacts by 80% of all of most dangerous areas both in and around the plant box. Indications are that this type of collar is currently mandated in NCAA for the 2014 season and will be mandated in HS 2015 season.

ASTM F2949 Basic design shape:

Order the new Safety Max collar at use promo code: skyjumpers for a 10% discount

Wood chips and or padding under all imitative devices at Sky Jumpers Vertical Sports club in Atascadero, Ca