When I was just starting with pole vault, the first thing my friends and family would ask me was, “isn’t pole vault dangerous?”. I never really had a great answer to that question until I jumped into the sport.


So what is the answer? Is pole vault really dangerous? Pole vault can be dangerous without the right coaching, equipment, and technique. But with educated coaching, up to date equipment, and correct technique the risks are reduced significantly.


It is important to know how pole vaulting can be dangerous, and how to stay clear of an athletic injury. To keep you and your vaulters/teammates safe it is important to understand how to lessen the risk of jumping dangerously. To jump safely, it is essential that vaulters learn proper technique and use the correct equipment. That means you need to understand what good and bad coaching looks like, what to watch out for with your equipment, and finally how to make sure you aren’t putting yourself in harm’s way by using poor technique.


How to know if you’re being safe when pole vaulting

The best way you can know if you are safe while pole vaulting, is to go off of your gut feelings and natural human instinct. Even when everything is as safe as it can be, you can still put yourself at risk if you don’t assess the situation. Athletes should only practice and compete when they are mentally and physically prepared to do so. 


If a pole vaulter does not feel energized and well prepared, then they can put themselves at risk for an athletic injury. You should always be thinking about your fatigue levels when going down the runway, especially if you are jumping on a bigger pole than you are used to, or if you are changing the poles you are using.


When changing poles, you should make sure that you have an adequate grip. This means that you should not grip too high, as this could lead to rejection and result in a dangerous situation.


Pole vaulters always need to make sure that they’re mentally focused on their jumps too. Not being focused on when you are jumping can be dangerous but so can overthinking your jump, so you will need to find the sweet spot for you when you are pole vaulting and only jump when you are in the right headspace for it. Most importantly, pole vaulters need to gain the confidence to nail each height and soar over the bar. 


Finally, be sure to use the right precautions when jumping. That means wearing a helmet and making sure you have good spikes to avoid injury. Some pole vaulters use helmets to protect their head, which can be injured if directly hit or landed on. Also, there are different spikes for certain events, so athletes should make sure they wear the proper shoe and have the correct length of spikes.


How to tell if you have the right coach for pole vault

Having a good coach will be the best way that any vaulter can stay as safe as possible during the vault. Coaches will be able to explain the technique of pole vault and know how to prevent injuries effectively.


They will also be the ones choosing what equipment is used and when to use different types of poles for different types of athletes.

The best way for you to make sure that you have a good pole vault coach is to talk to them and figure out how invested they are in the sport.


Here are some good questions to ask a potential pole vault coach:

  1. How long have you been a pole vault coach?
  2. Did you pole vault in high school or college?
  3. Have you coached many athletes? How high did they jump?
  4. Do you own any of the pole vault equipment we will be using?
  5. Do you work with a pole vault camp in the offseason? 


The risks of pole vault are decreased dramatically when you have the right people coaching you the right way. We have to remember that pole vault is very dangerous if there is an inexperienced coach or no coach at all.


How to make sure you are using the right pole vault equipment.

Aside from questioning your coach about the equipment, the best way for you to make sure that you are using the right pole vault equipment is by checking a few things.


  1. How old is the equipment?
    • If the equipment is too old then it may pose some serious safety problems.
  2. Is the equipment up to international pole vault standards?
    • You can check out some of these standards here. The most commonly overlooked and extremely important piece is the box collar.
  3. Do any of the poles have scratches or fractures in them?
    • Poles can be hit and scratched by spikes a lot of times during the jump so be vigilant. Even a small fracture could cause integrity problems with the pole.
  4. Are the poles the right length and weight for you?
    • Using the correct pole is extremely important to jump high, but also to be safe. The length of the pole is dependent on several factors such as an athlete’s ability to move the pole and an athlete’s grip. Most schools follow a strict rule with pole vault weight rating, and athletes must weigh less than the listed weight label on their pole.


How to avoid bad technique in the pole vault.

The majority of the time, good and bad technique is the result of good and bad coaching. Making sure you have the right person coaching the right way will be the easiest way to stay safe while pole vaulting.

The most important technique being the approach, you have to keep accelerating throughout the run and run the same way every time to be able to avoid injury and improve over time.


Another thing that is important to understand is the fact that the more fatigued you get the harder it will be to execute the jump the way it should be. Pole vaulters need to be very careful about their fatigue level to make sure they aren’t overextending themselves and risking their safety.


Related Questions


How long can a pole vault pole be?

A pole vault pole can range from 3.05 meters or 10 feet to 5.30 meters or 17 feet and 5 inches. The size of the pole is dependent based on an athlete’s skill level and capabilities. Younger, less experienced athletes mostly use shorter poles and don’t grip as high compared to more skilled jumpers. Many elite athletes jump on poles larger than 5 meters, and some are on poles closer to 17 feet. 


What things can I do to keep me safe while pole vaulting?

Although not required, it can be safer to use a helmet while jumping, and some vaulters choose to do so. Vaulters should also use a pole that has not been damaged, to prevent a pole snapping. Athletes must also only jump under the supervision of a knowledgeable coach, so they learn the proper form required for the sport. 


What age can you start pole vaulting?

There is no minimum age to start pole vaulting but a good age to start is 12 or 13. There is no maximum age for pole vault either. Many athletes begin in middle or high school, however, you can start whenever. To begin jumping, you should search for any local pole vaulting clubs or talk to your school track coach. Some athletes begin at the age of 4, and some athletes are vaulting in their nineties. 


Is pole vaulting easy?

Pole vaulting takes an extraordinary amount of dedication and hard work. Athletes should expect to train often on and off the runway. Most serious athletes spend time doing strength training, practicing sprints, and working on their pole vault technique. What makes pole vault easy is the adrenaline and the community behind it. These days, many athletes receive support from coaches and teammates at track meets.


How high do pole vaulters jump?

Typically speaking, beginner pole vaulters jump height from around 5 to 10 feet. However, many high school athletes clear heights around 11 to 16 feet for boys and 9-13 feet for girls. College and elite level vaulters jump even higher. The world record is 6.16 meters, which is approximately 20 feet 2.25 inches for men, and for women, it is 5.05 meters (about 16 feet 6.75 inches).