One of the most overlooked ingredients to a safe and complete athletic facility is the simple wall pad. It’s only a few inches of foam rubber on a wood backing, but when it comes to promoting safety, this is the most important product in the gymnasium.

We discuss just why that is in our new white paper, entitled “Wall Pads and Gym Safety.” We also talk about how to choose the proper wall pads to ensure the safety of athletic facility users.

HomewoodWhy Wall Pads
In November 2002, a 14-year-old female player crashed into an unpadded wall at the Sarcoxie, Missouri, First Baptist Church. The wall of the metal building, which had been leased from the church by Sarcoxie High School, was less than four feet from the court end line. The student suffered a traumatic brain injury.

In another 1997 incident, an eighth grader sustained a fatal injury running into the wall during open gym. In this case, the Trotwood-Madison, Ohio Middle School wall was padded, but the padding was insufficient.

There are other cases of participants being severely injured or even losing their lives during games, practices, or other activities. Many of these incidents have resulted in lengthy litigation and/or significant settlements that impacted all involved in the use and design of the recreation space. Wrestling, volleyball, and even PE classes are potentially dangerous activies. Owners, contractors, architects, and specifiers need to protect athletes and, as a by-product, provide themselves some protection and insulation from claims, by including wall padding and sufficient buffer zones around game and practice courts.

Despite calls for stronger rule requirements, governing bodies like the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS), the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have not made any firm requirements for the need for wall pads. However all indicate that due to the extreme physical nature of basketball, volleyball, and other sports, a fair amount of clearance is required around courts. For basketball, most sanctioning bodies use wording similar to that found in NFHS rule book that reads “There shall be at least three feet (.9 meters) (and preferably 10 feet (3 meters)) of unobstructed space outside boundaries” which is intended to allow athletes to slow down before hitting obstructions.

To finish reading this white paper, and to download a free PDF copy, click here.