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This dangerous track event is making a comeback. Here’s what parents should know

It’s understandable if you’re worried about the javelin. It’s a weapon, after all

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Julie Pickler participates in the javelin throw event at the Texas Relays on Thursday, April 3, 2008, in Austin, Texas.

Julie Pickler, winner of the women’s heptathlon competition at the Texas Relays, participates in the javelin throw event on Thursday, April 3, 2008, in Austin, Texas. The ancient sport of javelin throwing is becoming more common at U.S. track meets, according to The Wall Street Journal. But parents, coaches and young athletes are still divided over whether this trend puts people in danger.

Harry Cabluck, Associated Press

The ancient sport of javelin throwing is becoming more common at U.S. track meets, according to The Wall Street Journal. But parents, coaches and young athletes are still divided over whether this trend puts people in danger.

Is the javelin dangerous?

Although data shows that javelin-related injuries are far from common, to the naked eye, the event appears quite threatening. It involves wielding an ancient weapon, after all.

“I’m terrified of it,” said Simon Ocampo, a teacher and javelin coach at Basha High School in Chandler, Arizona, to The Wall Street Journal. “If you think about it, we’re one poke away from getting this thing shut down — I mean everywhere.”

And there have definitely been some high-profile, horrifying javelin accidents over the years. The Journal highlighted a time in 2016 when a teenager was gouged in the eye with the end of the javelin during a warmup throw.

“Parker Kennedy, while following through on a short warmup throw, essentially hurtled himself into the back end of the javelin, which drove inside his eyelid and into his brain,” the article noted.

In Utah, a newspaper photographer was once hit with a javelin while covering the high school track championship.

“He’d wandered into the field of play for the javelin toss and a javelin was coming straight at him. It pierced the skin just below his left knee,” NPR reported at the time, in May 2008.

But, overall, “the rate of serious, direct injuries in high school track and field lags that in some other sports,” The Wall Street Journal reported, drawing on data from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research.

“Four catastrophic injuries related to the javelin across all levels of competition have been recorded since 2013 by the catastrophic-injury center. Two high school and two college athletes were impaled by a javelin. Two of the athletes were javelin throwers, one was a discus thrower, and one was a runner. All athletes made full recoveries from their injuries, according to the center,” the Journal reported.

Is the javelin making a comeback?

Largely because of safety concerns, many states have chosen not to include the javelin in their track and field competitions. That helps explain why the U.S. has performed poorly in the event at the Olympic level, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“The javelin is one of the lowest-performing events for the U.S. national team, which otherwise has won four times as many Olympic track and field medals as any other nation. U.S. women have won a total of three Olympic medals in javelin, the most recent in 1976, and U.S. men have won five medals, most recently a half-century ago,” the article said.

However, the Journal determined that the tide is beginning to turn. In the past six years, five states have added javelin to their high school championship, meaning that more than half of states now offer the event.

The key to keeping the trend going is to ensure that everyone takes safety measures. The Wall Street Journal reported that many schools require rubber tips on javelins and that students, coaches and family members are warned to pay close attention to their surroundings.