An Analysis of Hammer Throw Facility Safety Factors in NCAA Division I

Article excerpt

Introduction

The hammer throw, one of the Olympic and internationally recognized field events in track and field, was developed into a competitive event centuries ago in Ireland, Scotland, and England (3). The hammer throw has changed considerably since its origin. This includes equipment changes (such as more precisely-manufactured hammers and smooth-soled shoes that permitted faster spinning), training methods, and throwing distances (now in excess of 280 feet for the best men and 250 feet for the best women in the world). One aspect of the throwing event that has not changed, however, is the inherent danger associated with this event. Athletes, coaches, and spectators participating in the event are at risk; steel hammers that weigh 4 kilos for women and 16 pounds for men are hurled through the air at great speeds, far distances, and sometimes difficult to spot in flight (2).

Due primarily to safety concerns, the throwing circle is protected by a C-shaped cage for the safety of officials, athletes, coaches, and spectators. At the inception of the hammer, there was no safety cage used. The hammer cage was originally designed to prevent the hammer from exiting the thrower's hands in unprotected directions, such as out of the back, sides, and in dangerous angles from the circle. Prior to 2004, the last significant change to hammer cage design that increased the gate height was in 1994-1995 (6). Even with the safety precautions of the cage and the reduced throwing sector, the hammer throw has met considerable resistance from state high school associations and collegiate athletic administrators in the United States (2).

In August 2003, the international governing body of track and field, the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), approved rule changes affecting hammer throwing safety cages. After the 2001 IAAF Congress' decision to reduce the landing sector angle to 34.92 degrees and after several deaths in throwing accidents, there was greater urgency to examine and improve hammer cages (6). The problem with earlier hammer cage specifications and design is that implements could still land on the track front and back straight away even when the cage gates were operated correctly. In the new design, modifications were made to augment safety by increasing the length and height of the gates as well as decreasing the opening between the front posts. Studies of the trajectory of the hammer necessitated that the minimum height of the additional two side panels and the gates be increased to 10m (4). The new IAAF rule standards came into force January 1, 2004 (8).

The new IAAF hammer cage design has worked well in terms of reducing the risk of hammers landing on the track as displayed in Figure 1 (6). However, the new IAAF specifications have not been adopted by the NCAA rules committee. Figures 2 and 3 demonstrate the variance in non-IAAF compliant cages of American hammer facilities. Are the colleges and university's across the United States putting themselves at risk for a catastrophic accident and ensuing litigation by not adopting the IAAF hammer cage? The following study examined current NCAA hammer facilities in relation to safety considerations.

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Research Questions

The following research questions guided this study of hammer throwing facilities at NCAA Division I institutions in the United States:

1. What are the basic characteristics of NCAA Division I hammer facilities?

2. To what degree do NCAA college hammer facilities meet NCAA and IAAF standards?

3. How do the basic hammer facility characteristics relate to facility safety?

Methods

A 35-item survey instrument was developed to collect data regarding the hammer facilities at NCAA Division I colleges and Universities throughout the United States. This survey was developed by the researchers and reviewed by experts in the area of facility design and management and was approved for use via the Institutional Review Board. …