Sports Brain Injuries

Extreme or action sports are having a major impact on brain injuries in sports. School-age athletes are attracted to the fun and excitement of action sports such as snowboarding, BMX cycling, and skateboarding. Action sports are usually characterized by speed, height, physical exertion, specialized equipment, and an element of danger. 

One of the original action sports, pole-vaulting, has been a part of track and field programs for more than half a century. Thanks to modern technology, the pole has transformed into a technically sophisticated piece of equipment with greater flexibility. However, this increases danger if the vaulters’ technique is flawed.

Incidents Involve Landing


Eighteen fatalities were reported in high school and college from 1983 to 2006. And 18 other catastrophic injuries were reported during the same period. (Mueller & Cantu 2007). All incidents involved problems in landing. Vaulters landed partly on the mat and bounced off to strike an unprotected area or missed the landing mat completely. Sports brain injuries accounted for most of the catastrophic injuries and were the cause of death in almost every instance.

The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research reports that if the estimate of 25,000 high school valuters is correct, then the catastrophic injury rate for high school pole valuters is higher than for any other sport.

Managing Inherent Risks


Brain injuries in sports can never be eliminated in an action sports setting, but through effective risk management the inherent risks of the event can be reduced. It’s interesting to note that the majority of sports brain injuries occur at facilities that do not conform to the rules. 

The landing area and the space around it become more increasingly important as athletes vault higher. Unlike other action sports—such as mountain biking or skiing, which take place in ever-changing and unprotected landscapes—the pole vault takes place in a “closed” environment, which can be maintained in a predictable fashion. 

By controlling the action sport environment, maintaining the equipment, and appropriately teaching the progressions of the pole vault, administrators and coaches can fulfill their duty for ensuring a safe environment for athletes when offering this exciting action sport event. 

Sports brain injuries can be minimized by the proper environment and training. If you feel your child’s injury could have been avoided, contact Seeger Weiss.

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