Wisconsin Rescinds Mandatory Helmet Rule

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Darth Vaulter
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Wisconsin Rescinds Mandatory Helmet Rule

Unread postby Darth Vaulter » Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:22 am

The following is from a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association press release that came out last night (4/27/2010). It is buried in a press
release that deals primarily with football conference realignments. The full release can be found at http://www.wiaawi.org.

"The Board of Control also approved a recommendation from the WIAA Sports Medical Advisory Committee
to immediately rescind the requirement for athletes to wear a pole vault helmet during competition and
make use of the helmet optional.

Several years ago, the Sports Medical Advisory Committee reviewed the high risk of serious head injury
sustained in an off-target landing in pole vaulting. Subsequently, the landing pad area was expanded significantly,
and an additional safety measure was added requiring pole vault athletes to wear a helmet. Research
since that time has shown the expanded landing pad provides significant benefit while the use of a helmet does not.
Use of a helmet will now be at the discretion of the athlete and his/her parents."
Last edited by Darth Vaulter on Wed Apr 28, 2010 9:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wisconsin Rescinds Mandatory Helmet Rule

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 9:16 am

Wow, I did not know that was coming down the pipe...

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Re: Wisconsin Rescinds Mandatory Helmet Rule

Unread postby vaultmd » Wed Apr 28, 2010 2:22 pm

Maybe this could be copied or moved to the safety forum?

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Re: Wisconsin Rescinds Mandatory Helmet Rule

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:34 pm

vaultmd wrote:Maybe this could be copied or moved to the safety forum?


Moved

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Re: Wisconsin Rescinds Mandatory Helmet Rule

Unread postby Getvertical_PV » Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:48 pm

Recent activity amongst districts is to scramble and make vaulters sign a waiver form. This in itself is not a concern, but the sample waiver form from the WIAA provides a choice between whether an athlete will or will not wear a helmet. See below:

I/We have read the Pole Vault Helmet Update Report and have decided

that our son/daughter __________________________(fill in athlete's name)

______ Will use a helmet during the 2010 season

______ Will not use a helmet during the 2010 season


____________________________ (parent(s) printed name)

____________________________ (parent(s) signed name)


This is of particular concern as it puts the coach in a role of policing whether a child is following their wishes. I do not think this is the intention of the WIAA, and I have contacted them to update the waiver form accordingly. It will be interesting to see how they react. Additionally, I have reached out to Russ to see if he is available to help build a template for schools to use in this scenario.

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Re: Wisconsin Rescinds Mandatory Helmet Rule

Unread postby Lax PV » Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:57 pm

rainbowgirl28 wrote:Wow, I did not know that was coming down the pipe...


I don't know that anyone did really. My coach from HS is the president of the Wisconsin Pole Vault Coaches Association (albeit, a small niche... but president sounds impressive...). I heard that he found out about 2 hours before they went public.

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Re: Wisconsin Rescinds Mandatory Helmet Rule

Unread postby Divalent » Sat May 01, 2010 6:45 pm

Darth Vaulter wrote:The following is from a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association press release that came out last night (4/27/2010). ... Research since that time has shown the expanded landing pad provides significant benefit while the use of a helmet does not. Use of a helmet will now be at the discretion of the athlete and his/her parents."


What Research are they refering to? Anybody know? (Link?)

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Re: Wisconsin Rescinds Mandatory Helmet Rule

Unread postby Divalent » Thu May 13, 2010 10:11 pm

Divalent wrote:What Research are they refering to? Anybody know? (Link?)
I'm bumping this because I really would like to read this research. If anyone has a link, a citation, or a copy I'd appreciate it.

TIA

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Re: Wisconsin Rescinds Mandatory Helmet Rule

Unread postby KirkB » Thu May 13, 2010 11:04 pm

Divalent wrote: I really would like to read this research. If anyone has a link, a citation, or a copy I'd appreciate it.

Maybe direct your question to the PVSCB? http://www.pvscb.com/

If you find out, please let us know.

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Re: Wisconsin Rescinds Mandatory Helmet Rule

Unread postby Getvertical_PV » Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:59 pm

Here is a link to the recommendation provided to the National Federation of High Schools last year from the pole vault safety committee.

https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0Bx ... ZDM5&hl=en

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Re: Wisconsin Rescinds Mandatory Helmet Rule

Unread postby Divalent » Fri Jun 04, 2010 12:49 am

This report is disturbing, because it appears to have been pursuasive. Most shocking thing to me is the paper "A Cost Benefit Analysis of a Pole Vaulting Helmet Requirement: Why the NFHS and Other Rulemaking Bodies Should Not Adopt Such a Rule": IMO it is shoddy scholarship and complete BS. Although the authors repeatedly claim (over and over and over again; its even in the friggin title of the paper!) they are doing a cost benefit analysis, they in fact DO NO SUCH THING! The only cost they measure is the cost of helmets (overstated, I might add, by about 66%). They measure/estimate no benefit. Yet they write as if they have proven the case. [Indeed, they claim "We can determine the "cost" of grave bodily injury or death of an individual" and that they can "we also can forecast the probability of these types of head injuries", but then fail to do exactly that! They just move on to the other side of the ledger!]

They make absolutely no analysis of the cost of hyperflexion injuries, the big cost they use to argue that helmets would be a "bad idea". I suspect the reason they didn't do this is because (AFAIK) there is not one reported instance of a hyperflexion injury on a pole vaulter that has been exacerbated by a helmet (certainly they cited none in this paper). Instead, the author merely wave their hands and come up with a "cost" (they declare it a "serious cost") that nullifies the cost of not wearing a helmet (which they similarly fail to estimate). This is shoddy scholarship and intellectually dishonest: shoddy scholarshop because they could have researched injuries of this type and produced at least some estimate of the prevalence and cost of such injuries; and dishonest because the title of the paper and the central thesis seems to promise you that they did a real cost-benefit analysis.

Quoting from their paper: "In addition to the likelihood of immediate injury, this hyperflexion caused by a helmet is also likely to cause significant long-term or chronic neck injuries. If one were to extrapolate, and try to calculate the number of repeated occurrences of these types of landings over several years of vaulting, it is clear a significant number of these hyperflexion landings will occur over the course of several years". They present no data at all about the likelihood of immediate data, yet that doesn't stop them from going beyond even that!

"... this hyperflexion caused by a helmet ..." is merely a speculative injury: they cite no instances of an injury caused (or exacerbated) by a helmet (let alone any "cost" of such an injury).

"...is also likely to cause significant long-term or chronic neck injuries..." This statement is outragous. Having not documented a single case of any injury caused by a helmet, they just assume they will occur, and so that balances out their cost benefit analysis.

"If one were to extrapolate, ...". You can only "extrapolate" when you have actual data to guide you, but the problem is THEY HAVE NO DATA TO EXTRAPOLATE FROM!

With no basis whatever, they have led themselves to the point where they confidently assert that "a significant number of these hyperflexion landings WILL occur over the course of several years". And most outragously their bottom line conclusion is "Our opinion is that ... the costs of prevention by mandating helmets far outweighs the costs of harm, and therefore a mandatory helmet rule would be a terrible (if not disastrous) idea ..." This is outragous. It is completely unsupported by what they present in their paper. Completely unsupported. (Who reviews the papers for this Journal?)

BTW, they also make no serious effort to estimate the benefit of wearing a helmet, despite the fact that this is probably the one thing they could do. Instead, they downplay any serious benefit with statements like these (quoting an unname and uncited source!): "Experts suggest that no feasible helmet will protect a vaulter in the event of a 16-foot fall that results in a direct blow to the back of the head against an unpadded plant box. Such an impact would exceed the capabilities of current motorcycle helmets".

So what? No one claims a helmet will protect against every possible situation, and so picking one where (maybe!) it might not prevent death is not a counter to the claim that helmets will protect against other falls.

And elsewhere in the Wisconsin report that was used to argue for rescinding the rule (e.e., not this paper) Jan Johnson is quoted as noting that the helmet "is designed for a fall of less than three feet". Again, so what? Fall from 3 feet: no injury; vs a bump without a helmet. Fall from 6 ft, maybe a minor injury (vs a more serious one without a helmet). Fall from 10, seriously injured vs critically injured. It's a pointless statement of the obvious, presented as if it has weight.

There is NO impact speed where a helmet would NOT reduce the extent of damage to the head. Sure, it might be that even that reduced damage still results in a fatal injury, but below that level of impact speed, helmets will reduce injury. Yes, they may still be injured, but not as much.

I'm disappointed that Wisconsin rescinded their rule based on this presentation, since it is little more than a restatement of the arguments made against helmets 8 years ago, with some shoddy scholorship giving it a pseudoscientic patina of respectibility. Eight years ago this hyperflexion injury was raised as a potentially serious downside to wearing a helmet, and given the uncertainty perhaps it would have been prudent to proceed slowly back then. But at this point, I think its time for the naysayers to put up the data or back off: unlike 8 years ago, lots of kids now use helmets. If it hyperflexion was a real risk, you would think there would be at least ONE such injury that can be tied to helmet use. On the other side, we continue to see serious and fatal head injuries in circumstances where it would seem a helmet likely would have helped. Two this year, one fatal and one (thankfully) a recovery after going close to the brink.

I'm not arguing that the case for helmets is clear, but what this debate does not need is crap like this muddying the issue. The general case for the protective effect of helmets is unassailable, based on their value proven in so many other activities. I've heard of several deaths and several severe injuries in vaults due to falls in the pole vault and related activities over the last 7-8 years or so, and I don't think it is credible to argue that helmets would have made no difference in any of them. The only uncertainty is this hyperflexion risk, a speculative risk raised by a credible source many years ago, albeit on the basis of anecdotal evidence only. I have not heard of a severe (let along fatal) hyperflexion injury having occured in a PV'er over this interval (regardless of a helmet).

A true Cost-benefit analysis is a quantitative undertaking, not an opinion piece that is grounded, at best, on vague statements of unnamed experts, anecdotes, and general statement of marginally relevant facts. It requires a quantitative estimate of the costs and the benefits

Thus, I think at this point that it is the DUTY of those who argue that helmet are dangerous, (and who therefore take the position that we should not require all vaulters to vault with the protection we KNOW helmets can provide) to prove their case. The death and the critical injury toll continues to mount in unhelmeted vaulters. Show us the data on the incidence of hyperflexion, and it's exacerbation by helmets. When you do that, THEN (and only then) can you do a proper cost-benefit analysis.

And I challenge the authors of this paper, Russ VerSteeg and James Bemiller, to do it right the next time: to do what their paper claims to be doing (a REAL cost benefit analysis) and to base the conclusions of that report on the *FACTS* that the report presents.

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Re: Wisconsin Rescinds Mandatory Helmet Rule

Unread postby Getvertical_PV » Mon Jun 07, 2010 3:51 pm

I think the most important point is that helmets MAY help or MAY NOT help. As there is no positive evidence either way the WIAA, nor any other governing body, should mandate their use. No one has ruled that helmets cannot be used, they have just removed the requireness.

At the state track meet last weekend about 25% (my rough guess) of the athletes continued to wear helmets.


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