INDIANAPOLIS — In a move to reduce serious pole vaulting injuries, the National Federation of State High School Associations has adopted a rules change placing the crossbar farther back over the landing pit.
The new rule comes after one last year that increased the size of the pit.
It sets the crossbar at least 15 1/4 inches past the vertical plane of the back of the planting box. Requiring a deeper vault into the pit will lessen the chance of an athlete landing on the planting box.
“This teaches athletes to vault a little deeper and leaves more room to land once the vaulter plants and leaves the ground,” said Cynthia Doyle, NFHS assistant director.
Three vaulters, two at high schools in Florida and Kansas and one at Penn State, died in a span of two months last year. In the past two decades, an average of one vaulter has died each year, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.
The latest change was adopted last week by the Track and Field Rules Committee of the NFHS, the Indianapolis-based umbrella group for 51 state associations encompassing about 18,200 U.S. high schools and more than 10 million students.
“Kids are going to have to adjust how they vault and how they train, how they practice,” said Bobby Cox, Indiana High School Athletic Association assistant commissioner in charge of track and field.
“But it does make sense to move the bar back and have a minimum distance away from the box so we don’t have kids coming down on the box because that’s typically where the injuries occur.”
The larger landing mats — now at least 20 feet deep — made the new rule on the placement of the crossbar possible, Cox said.
“In height, it might affect them for a while,” Cox said. “I think it’s going to be a learning curve for vaulters to learn to vault with the bar recessed. But I don’t think it will affect height appreciably as they get used to it.”