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Pole Vault, Most Dangerous Sport in High School

By: Shea Hill

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For some,  pole vault is an adrenaline fueled extreme sport and consider it one of the most exciting events in athletics.  It is also one of the most dangerous sports in high school.    

So how can we make pole vault a safer sport for high school, college, and elite athletes?  Just like any sport, there are ways to modify the sport to make it safer, but being able to make it 100% safe is near impossible.  One of the things that makes the pole vault so dangerous is the unpredictability of what will happen when an attempt doesn’t go as planned.   Vaulters who lose control on the way up can be tossed to either side of the landing pit, or tossed backward into the approach area, where there is no padding.  

Samoa Fili, a 17 year old senior at Southeast High School in Kansas died in 2002 while pole vaulting, landed on the mat, bounced, and hit the back of his head on the pavement.  Pole vault accidents don’t only happen to amateurs either.  One of Austria’s top women vaulters, Kira Grunberg, suffered a horrible injury after she fell and hit her head during practice on July 31, 2015.  Grunberg had immediate surgery after fracturing a cervical vertebrae.

Pole vaulting requires many skills in order to be an adequate vaulter such as running speed, upper body strength, and technique.  “Learning the technique is so difficult because all of the moves are so counterintuitive,” Hayden Matheny, a pole vaulter here at OHS, said when asked what the hardest part pole vault is.  “I like to pole vault because it is challenging and it is not a very popular sport.”  Matheny said.  

About 25,000 students participate in pole vault each year, compared to 1.5 million high school and middle school students that play football each year.  According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, with at least 18 high school pole vault deaths within the years 1983 and 2004.

“Knowing the dangers of pole vault, I can understand why some people think that those who pole vault are crazy, but in my opinion it’s worth it,”  Matheny said about his feelings towards the sport.  Overall, pole vault will continue to be an extreme sport, but can be safer as long as we take the important safety precautions into consideration.  “It’s the blend between skill and daring, fear and excitement, and the beauty and artistry involved when it is all done just right”, Bob Ullrich, the pole vault coach at Oconomowoc, said when asked what he loved about pole vault.  

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One Response to “Pole Vault, Most Dangerous Sport in High School”

  1. Anon on February 15th, 2016 4:20 pm

    Great article!

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