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February 9, 2001

Opening Statement Regarding The Need For Standards In Pole Vaulting Equipment

By Jan Johnson

This committee is dedicated to the study and improvement of pole vaulting equipment with the specific purpose of making pole vaulting safer for those who participate in it. It is the general belief of the committee members that through scientific investigation; pertinent standards may be implemented for the purpose of improving safety in pole vaulting. These standards may include, but are not limited, to the following:

Helmets- Currently no specific helmet for pole vaulting exists. However, helmets may be a good idea as they add a possible measure of safety to pole vaulting. Several brands of hockey and or skating helmets offer excellent protection to the sides and back of the head area and are currently being used at the H.S. and college level in the vault. However, in order to make helmets a more viable alternative, we must develop standards specifically for pole vaulting. These standards need to relate specifically to impact management, fit, structure and upkeep for the purpose of increased safety.

Landing Pads- The evolution of pole vaulting landing pads has been rather dramatic over the past 30 years. The real and perceived safety value of modern landing pads far exceed anything available in the past. Yet, we still see occasional random catastrophic accidents! In addition, pole vault landing pads are at the same time the most expensive, and highest upkeep of any other single piece of track and field equipment. In an effort to better understand and develop standards for this highly important piece of equipment, the committee will study the following areas of importance: appropriate size relative to highest intended user, materials, appropriate life-span under normal conditions, up-keep, deceleration characteristics, and costs of implementing any possible rule changes. The committee will also study any current existing standards that may be in place at both the domestic and international levels to determine if they are appropriate. As always costs to upgrade will weight heavily in any recommendations which may be made.

Poles- The evolution of the fiberglass pole vaulting pole has been well documented over the past 50 years. The fiberglass pole has been a marvelous invention which has helped to captivate young and old alike to the world of pole vaulting. Up until the current time the assigning of weight values to vaulting poles has been has been at the arbitrary discretion of each individual manufacturer. However, with the recent popularity of women’s vaulting and the 1995 National H.S. rule mandating vaulters only use poles at or above their body weight, it has become important to develop a standard whereby all new and used poles my be weight calibrated upon the basis of one single system. This standard shall include the following parameters: #1 Historical data regarding pole stiffness/ assigned weight value. #2 Scientific data collection and interpretation regarding appropriate pole stiffness values and their relationships to average male and female HS and college pole vaulters for use as site markers to develop “flex chart frame work”. #3 Mathematical computation and analysis for the purpose of developing a theoretical model. #4 Inspection and application of chart to random inventory of vaulting pole for the purpose of checking appropriateness and verifying accuracy of theoretical model. #5 Modifications to theoretical chart and reassessment. #6 Conversion of existing pole inventory to new “normalized flex” chart now called “Best Flex”. #7 On going subjective observation for the purpose determining Best Flex validity. #8 Implementation of Best Flex: recommendation for conversion of all existing H.S. and college pole inventories to “Best Flex” system. #9 Building all future poles to the “Best Flex” standard.

SUMMARY- Pole vaulting is a highly educational, rewarding sports activity that has earned a place in the high school and college sports programs across our nation. It is the intended purpose of this committee to help build a better, more efficient, and safer pole vaulting environment by the research and implementation of better equipment standards for the industry. To be sure the topics I have listed above are not the only areas where we need to set standards. However, they are the most important.