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Track and field committee recommends more padding around pole vault landing area

By Greg Johnson

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Committee approved a rules change in pole vault competitions that would require all rigid or unyielding items above ground level, or designated landing pit platform surfaces extending beyond the dimensions of the landing area, to be padded beginning in the 2012-13 academic year.

All rules changes must be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to meet July 19.

The committee, which met June 12-15 in Indianapolis, modified the language of the current rule so there is no ambiguity as to what type of surfaces should be covered.

As in recent meetings, the track and field rules subcommittee thoroughly discussed the safety of pole vault participants.

“It is common sense,” said Will Freeman, the head men’s track and field coach at Grinnell and the chair of the committee. “In some cases, you have a concrete curb where the track surface is near the landing area. Those areas should be padded. If you have some other man-made object there, it should be padded. Any hard and unyielding surface needs to be covered.”

Since many track and field venues are used for other events, objects such as electrical boxes, concrete drainage grates and the corners of pallets where the landing mat sits should have padding.

In a continued effort to focus on pole vault safety, the NCAA, the National Federation of State High School Associations and USA Track and Field held a pole vault summit in January. Part of the gathering included the making of a DVD where featuring proper techniques of pole vaulting.

The plan is to edit the material and make the DVD required viewing for all NCAA track and field coaches and the student-athletes who compete in the event.

The track and field rules subcommittee also discussed making padding a requirement in the box collar where competitors plant their poles for a jump. The box collars are composed of hard metal, but the subcommittee is waiting for the American Society for Testing and Materials to set a standard as to placement and thickness of the padding.

“We can’t dictate that people have padding in the box collar until the ASTM tells us what the standard is,” Freeman said. “Then manufacturers can develop products based on those standards.”


Medical assistance

The track and field committee also recommended amending the assistance rule, which would allow medical personnel to treat a student-athlete before the end of an event as long as the athletic trainer/team doctor doesn’t help the competitor to the finish line.

Committee members don’t want to see a student-athlete who is in obvious need of medical attention denied an examination or treatment because it would be considered grounds for disqualification.

“We need to determine if the student-athlete can finish the race,” Freeman said. “Someone more qualified than a coach should be making medical decisions. Medical people need to be allowed to do that, and we don’t want to penalize the athlete. As long as we don’t give them an advantage where someone is carrying them to the finish line, it should be allowed.”