Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law


Russ VerSteeg

First Page



Generally speaking, sports rules perform at least six functions, many of which overlap. Sports rules: 1) define the game; 2) promote safety; 3) prohibit unfair advantage; 4) promote administrative efficiency; 5) foster good sportsmanship; and, 6) promote fairness. Presumably, as sports evolve, rule makers must seriously consider at least two important questions when deciding how to respond to any given technological innovation that affects a sport. They must consider its potential impact on the integrity of the sport (i.e., how it affects both the definition of the game as well as whether it creates an unfair advantage and/or otherwise hinders fairness) and its effect on the safety of the sport. The history of pole vault rules shows a gradual evolution of the "definition of the game" plus attention to safety concerns. This is true especially with the evolution of the poles, box and landing apparatus. This essay examines these rule-making issues as they relate to advancements in vaulting pole technology.

Part I examines the evolution of pole technology and a number of related rules applicable to the pole vault. Part II discusses the most significant improvement in the history of vaulting pole technology, thus far: the fiberglass pole which brought about the dramatic improvements of the "Fiberglass Revolution" in the early 1960's. The essay concludes in Part III by explaining why an advance in pole technology analogous to the Fiberglass Revolution would be detrimental both to safety and the sport's integrity, and, therefore, why rule makers must act now to prevent such a dangerous occurrence.