Pole Vault Research Paper

Although pole vaulting has been a sanctioned collegiate event since the 1920s, little is known about the injury patterns observed in the sport.

To describe injury incidence, patterns, and risks in collegiate pole vaulters.

Descriptive epidemiology study.

This was a prospective cohort study of collegiate athletes participating in pole vault over a single track-and-field season. Baseline athlete information was collected on study enrollment. Injuries were recorded in a standardized form to document diagnosis and event circumstances. A log of practice and competition exposures was maintained for each athlete. Injury incidence was reported as the proportion of injured vaulters and number of new injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures. Regression analysis on baseline variables was performed to determine risks for injury.

A total of 135 vaulters from 15 universities took part in the study. There were 70 injury events reported during 8823 exposures. Forty-one percent of vaulters sustained injury, and there were 7.9 injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures. The low back was the most common injury location (16.7%), followed by the hamstrings and lower leg (13.9% each). Overall, 60% of injuries were to the lower extremities, 21% to the upper extremities, and 18% to the back. No head or neck injuries were reported. Injuries were most commonly muscular strains (39.2%) or overuse type (25.5%). Thirty percent, including 83% of low back injuries, occurred during the plant/takeoff phase of the vault. One-third of lumbar injuries were spondylolysis, with 75% of these being season ending. The odds of injury were 2.7 (95% CI, 1.1-7.1) times greater in vaulters with multiple prior injuries.

This is the first prospective study of injury patterns in collegiate pole vaulters. The results indicate that injuries are very common in experienced vaulters. Medical personnel and coaches should be aware of the propensity for overuse-type injuries and institute activity modification to reduce time lost. In addition, coaches and athletes should focus on proper technique, particularly during the plant/takeoff to help minimize back injury. Medical providers should maintain a high level of suspicion for symptomatic spondylolysis in any vaulter complaining of frequent or persistent low back pain. Detailed medical histories are important to identify prior injuries, and coaches should focus on changing technical flaws or behaviors that may contribute to reinjury.

Re: Pole vault research paper: influence of pole plant timing

Unread postby agapit » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:20 pm

It’s quite astonishing how sometime if one does not ask the right question then the right answer to the wrong question is still wrong answer. Let me elaborate.

In one of my writs, I have hypothesized that actually from the pure preservation of energy at the takeoff it may be advantageous to not to jump of the ground at all, however paradoxical it may sound, and the plant timing, pole/ground angle or being under, or having a free takeoff has no significant influence on total energy of the athlete/pole system at the takeoff on the fiberglass pole or at least not as much influence as on the rigid pole.

I even would argue that larger takeoff angle generated by an athlete could be costly from the energy perspective, because resistance of the takeoff leg required to generate larger takeoff angle consumes energy in the muscle/skeletal apparatus of the athlete and I hypothesized that the pole can “lift” the athlete off the ground with a greater efficiency, loosing less energy in the process, because the fiberglass is more efficient then the human muscle/skeletal system in redirecting speed vector up.

So, if I would look purely from energy exchange perspective during the takeoff phase and that is all we were interested in, I could argue with anyone, that in fact a flatter takeoff would be more energy preserving and timing of the pole interaction with the athlete would have no difference on the total energy in the system!!! So I would find the conclusion of the experiment in question not unexpected. Moreover, pillars of pole vault coaching such as Don Hood, advocated for a flatter takeoff and Billy Olson’s WR was an outcome of this method!!!

However, it is not just preservation of energy that is at stake at the takeoff, no pun intended! The potential height of the jump depends on the total energy generated and preserved during the whole event not just run-up/takeoff. And if one considers the whole jump then timing of the plant and takeoff as well as the direction of the takeoff significantly influence ability of the athlete to further generate energy input in the system. See my discussion about passive and active phases. Also the most important parameter in the achieving higher clearance is the vertical speed component of the center of gravity or COM and having the most streamlined COM trajectory without significant decelerations/accelerations is essential! And however great Billy Olson’s achievement and potential was, we estimate that Bubka’s was about a foot higher!!!

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