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Safety In The Throwing Events

Article By: William Byron Pendleton
Esperanza High School, Anaheim, CA

The importance of safety in the throwing events cannot be overstated. In high school only the Pole Vault has a great history of serious injuries incurred by participants and spectators. In high school the throwing events concerned are the shot put and discus.

A Word of Warning
The first item on the agenda of any throwing coach should be assembling the throwers on the first day and making the point that these implements "can kill you````". Deaths have been recorded in the past among throwers and spectators. This does not mean throwing has to be a hazardous activity, only that throwing is like crossing a street. No one would walk a busy street blindly without looking both ways. Similarly, any athlete in the vicinity of throwing workouts or competition must be observant. In terms of liability for a coach, he/she must let the throwers know serious injury and death are a possibility. Yet, with proper caution being exercised, no one should suffer a scratch.

Be Observant
The first key to safety is being observant. Any implement can be avoided if an athlete sees it coming. Throwers in the ring need to be observant for casual observers, people crossing the throwing area heading for other school destinations, and runners who may be in the throwing area or heading into it. The majority of non-throwers have no familiarity at all with throwing events. Most don't realize that the thrower begins with his back to the throwing area, making him blind to the landing area, or that the implements often land out of the sector and that the thrower (particularly beginners) may have little idea where the implement is going. As a result, the thrower needs to call out a warning to anyone approaching the throwing area. They also need to understand that if the person stares dumbly at them and continues to walk across their landing area, they must resist the urge to throw anyway and wait until the area is clear before they throw.

Ideally, from a safety point of view, a coach could have all the throwers throw and then have all of them walk out together to retrieve their implements. This way no one would be in danger of being hit. In the real world, however, coaches and athletes are working with a limited amount of time, and this method of working out takes a greater amount of time since the ring will be empty as all the throwers walk to their implements. A more practical solution is to have the throwers retrieve their own implements as other throwers throw, so that throwing time in the ring is maximized. Thus, throwers must learn to throw and then retrieve their implements taking a wide path outside the sector. They must also be looking backwards the majority of the time they are retrieving their implement. They should never be in front of the cage when someone else is throwing. No one can count on dodging a discus inside a 100' range, so approach from the side.

The Discus
The key in discus safety is the cage. Ideally a cage fits the specifications given in the high school handbook or the specifications from the official body. This insures that the front poles of the cage extend beyond the front of the ring, minimizing the area that foul throws can land in. The poles and cage can be placed or closed if the screen is movable a few feet from the sector line.

If spectators are present, a string of flags or ropes are a necessity. These restraints should set back 30 or 40 feet as opposed to the often seen 10 or 15 feet. Since spectators will often be sitting in lawn chairs, they will react slowly to errant throws and need to be forced to set up far away by restraining flags. Whenever possible, advise your athletes to sit along the left side of the sector if they are going to watch. The majority of throwers are right-handed, so the majority of foul throws are lost on the right. They should sit either behind the screen or well beyond what any thrower in the competition is capable of throwing since landing discs will often bounce erratically or roll well beyond the landing site. If a ring does not have a cage, keep everyone behind a line drawn by the back line of the ring.

During competition the judges running the throwing events must make sure that the persons making the throws have their faces turned toward the thrower and that they are not bent over marking a previous throw as a second thrower begins to throw. Another common discus safety problem is that throwers will stand next to a cage that has netting for sides. While netting prevents a discus from bouncing back off the screen towards the thrower, netting also will move several feet outward when the discus hits the net. If a thrower stands next to the net, he may be hit. Therefore, throwers usually need to be cautioned to stand away from netting.

The Shot Put
Since the shot ring has no cage, throwers in the area of a shot must be alert even though putters typically lose far fewer throws out of sector than other events, although rotational throwers will be more erratic than gliders. Again, resting or waiting throwers should be behind the ring or well beyond the possible landing area, not along the foul lines.





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