According to the Wall Street Journal, the ancient sport of javelin throwing is becoming more common in American track and field competitions. But parents, coaches and young athletes are still divided on whether this trend is putting people at risk.
Is the javelin dangerous?
Although the data shows that javelin-related injuries are far from common, to the naked eye the event looks quite threatening. It involves wielding an ancient weapon, after all.
“I’m terrified of it,” Simon Ocampo, a teacher and javelin thrower coach at Basha High School in Chandler, Ariz., told The Wall Street Journal. “If you think about it, we’re at a point of shutting this thing down – I mean everywhere.”
And there have certainly been horrific, high-profile javelin throwing accidents over the years. The Journal highlighted a moment in 2016 when a teenager had his eye gouged out with the tip of the javelin during a warm-up throw.
“Parker Kennedy, while continuing a short warm-up throw, essentially lunged into the back of the javelin, which penetrated his eyelid and into his brain,” the article noted.
In Utah, a news photographer was once hit with a javelin while covering the high school track and field championship.
“He had ventured onto the playing field to throw the javelin and a javelin was coming straight at him. He pierced the skin just below his left knee,” NPR reported at the time, in May 2008.
But, overall, “the rate of serious and direct injuries in high school athletics is lower than some other sports,” the Wall Street Journal reported, drawing on data from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury. Research.
“Four catastrophic javelin-related injuries at all levels of competition have been recorded since 2013 by the Catastrophic Injury Centre. Two high school students and two university students were impaled by a javelin. Two of the athletes were javelin throwers, one was a discus thrower and one was a runner. All athletes have fully recovered from their injuries, according to the center,” the Journal reported.
Is the javelin making a comeback?
Largely for safety reasons, many states have chosen not to include the javelin in their track and field competitions. This helps explain why the United States performed poorly in this Olympic-level event, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“The javelin is one of the worst-performing events for the U.S. national team, which has also won four times as many Olympic medals in track and field as any other nation. U.S. women have won a total of three medals Olympics in the javelin, the most recent in 1976, and American men have won five medals, the last half a century ago,” the article said.
However, the Journal determined that the tide was starting to turn. In the past six years, five states have added javelin throwing to their high school championships, meaning more than half of the states now offer the event.
The key to keeping the trend going is making sure everyone is taking safety precautions. The Wall Street Journal reported that many schools require rubber spikes on javelins, and students, coaches and family members are being warned to pay close attention to their surroundings.