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Field Events: Long and High Jump

By: Ossie Sharon - Updated: 14 Jul 2013 | comments*Discuss
Bar (high Jump) Bounding Broad Jump High

The following is an introduction to safety in the long and high jump events of track and field athletics.

Track and field athletics are comprised of a collection of sports, generally categorised as running, throwing, and jumping. Of the latter, the long jump and the high jump are two of the best known.

  • In the long - or "broad" - jump, athletes sprint down a runway and jump horizontally off a raised board into a measured area (usually a stretch of sand), attempting to land as far from the takeoff point as possible.
  • In the high jump, athletes gather momentum from running, then jump vertically over a horizontal bar placed at varying measured heights, and onto a cushioned mat
Though each is considered a specialisation, these events share a nearly identical structure of execution. The following are the principal components of both events:
  • Starting Run - Gathering optimal speed for the takeoff, to give the jump sufficient force
  • Take-off - Transitioning from running to propulsion
  • Flight - The body is airborne; checks and balances ensure proper direction in the long jump, and clearance of the bar in the high jump
  • Landing - The scoring area for the long jump, a safety point for the high jump
Because the elements are so similar, so too is the training, safety, and required skills.

Practice & Preparation

The advantages of readiness for the long and high jumping events include not only maximizing distance and height, but also preventing injury.

The Fundamentals
As in the separate but similar sports of running and pole vaulting, powerful, controlled movements are needed for both distance and precision in jumps. They come not only with the proper and repeated training that leads to mastery of technique, but also with the attainment of background flexibility, strength, and balance and coordination. This means engaging in additional exercises, those that target not only the major muscles of the legs - as in the thighs and calves - but also the feet, ankles, and upper body, including arms and back.

Resources for recommended exercise and stretching programs for track and field events include sports texts and journals, organisation and enthusiast websites, coaches, and exercise physiologists.

Optimisation of technique involves practice of the primary movements of the sport, as well as identification and correction of any problems. The following factors are key to maximising results and safety in all four phases:
  • Starting Run - Foot position, motor coordination, and timing ensure maximum speed is reached (and not surpassed) at the takeoff point
  • Take-off - Timing; foot position that ensures proper balance to anchor the jump; trunk position (particularly abdominal) for maximum thrust; free leg angle (greater is better); plus flexibility and control of (1) joints, and (2) muscles that influence leg span
  • Flight - Checks and balances utilising coordination and strategic positioning of arms, trunk, and legs keep the body on course in the long jump; in the high jump, flexibility enables the arching or twisting (depending on chosen method) that ensures clearance of the bar
  • Landing - Body and foot position in the long jump can maximise measurable distance, and body position in the high jump ensures safety
Personal Equipment
Proper footwear is considered indispensable in track and field sports, and jumping is no exception. Features to look for include the following:
  • General fit
  • Cushioning, or "shock absorbance"
  • Flexibility
  • Stability
  • Arch support
Prior to each training session or competition, joints and muscles should be "loosened" and "warmed up" through a series of stretching and other exercises to ensure safe range-of-motion.
  • Exercises should involve a minimum of the main muscles that will be used during the activity.
  • The total time should be at least 10 minutes, longer during cold weather

General Safety

Injuries can occur at any of the four phases of the long and high jumps. The following are the most common injuries and what may cause them:
  • Muscle or tendon strain (including hamstring injuries), sprain, or fracture from awkward foot placement during running or takeoff, or from insufficient warm-up
  • A hit from a dislodged bar in the high jump or foreign object in the long jump, either during flight or landing
  • Sprains, fractures, or contusions from improper landing
  • Blisters, shinsplints, or sprains from poor footwear
Finally, the runway, landing point, and event-specific equipment - such as the launch board in the long jump and bar rack in the high jump - must be in good working condition. This means the following:
  • Free of defects - such as fissures or loose parts - that could cause failure
  • Clear of debris that could cause tripping, slipping, or impact-related injury.

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