11 August 1998

Poley Toledo! Pole Vaulting Can Kill!

Kids may be better off staying at home and watching tv rather than doing track and field according to a new study from the University of North Carolina (UNC).

In what amounts to a shocking indictment of athletics and pole vaulting in particular, the research reveals that thirteen young US athletes - all high school boys - died from catastrophic accidents suffered while pole vaulting between fall 1982 and spring 1997. "All of them happen the same way. Either the athlete hits the landing pit and bounces out onto the hard surface surrounding the pit, or he misses the pit altogether", said Frederick Mueller, professor and chair of physical education, exercise and sport science at UNC (Mueller also directs the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injuries).

But should the public be losing sleep over pole vaulters with bad guidance systems? Absolutely, says Mueller, "A lot of people are concerned about these injuries, and we believe more research ought to be done on them. There's been discussion in some states about doing away with pole vaulting because of liability concerns, but I don't think that's happened yet."

Fatalities for other track and field events were less engrossing. One would expect that hormone imbalanced teenagers would find the javelin an excellent tactical weapon for sorting out classroom problems, but javelin injuries, along with discus concussion and heavy shot impact, registered only three fatalities in the same fifteen-year period.