The average annual rate of catastrophic injuries from pole vaulters landing in the vault box has more than tripled during the past decade, despite rule changes in 2003 that have markedly reduced the number of catastrophic injuries and fatalities from pole vaulters missing the back or sides of the landing pads.
Researchers prospectively collected data on catastrophic pole vaulting injuries in the United States from 2003 to 2011. To determine the frequency of landing in the vault box, researchers surveyed 3,335 pole vaulters and compared results with those from the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury, Internet searchers and communication with the National Pole Vault Safety Committee and the Pole Vault Safety Certification Board.
Study results showed 19 catastrophic injuries occurred with 74% of pole vaulters landing in or around the vault box, when an athlete landed off the sides or back of the landing pad (21%) or when the pole broke (5%). At a combined high school and college level, the average annual incidence of direct catastrophic injuries was 2.0 per 100,000 pole vaulters. Fifty-eight percent of pole vaulters experienced major head injuries, 21% pelvic fractures, 5% brain stem injury and 5% thoracic injury. Compared to a previous study, the annual fatality rate decreased from 1.0 to 0.22, according to researchers.
In the pole vaulters survey, 77.2% of pole vaulters landed in the vault box one to three times, 15.92% never landed in the vault box, 6.12% landed in the vault box four to six time and 0.84% landed in the vault box seven or more times. Only 3.03% of pole vaulters who landed in the vault box at least once required medical attention. The most frequent body parts injured included the ankle (24.62%), heel (19.23%), lower back (12.31%) and knee (8.46%).
“Potential preventive strategies that require additional research include developing materials with appropriate shock absorption capability for the box collar, padding the sides and bottom of the plant box and making the vault box narrower, the researchers stated. The dimensions of the box collar and the pole, especially the stiffness and proper grip heights, as well as the ideal position for the crossbar, also require additional study.” source