As a water polo player, you need to be agile to avoid being pushed or hit. Since you need to use every major muscle in your body to attack or defend, you must be in control of your shoulders, back, hips and knees. Also, this is precisely why one severe injury to a muscle could pull a valedictorian on your career as a water goalie.
Now, considering that most of your body is vulnerable and unprotected when underwater, the chances of getting hit by the bat on your limbs or the ball on your head are almost avoidable. But that isn’t the only kind of injuries that you need to afraid of.
Not all injuries have to be accidental. Some are deliberate. Water polo comes with its share of biting, punching, clawing, gouging and several other ways of impaling each other. And if you can somehow make your way through the vandalism, you simply cannot beat the copious amounts of chlorine in the water.
Having been a member of the water polo club since my high-school days, I know a thing or two about keeping oneself unharmed while playing splash.
I have summed up the most common as well as deadly injuries that you have to bear in your life as a water polo player. Here are the 4 injuries along with bonus tips that I have picked up in my career to helping you through.
Water polo is a hard and aggressive sport; there is no denying that. It has its fair share of head butts, elbows thrusts, and shoulders hits. Players are always flailing their arms dangerously, and a blow on the head can result in a severe concussion. Even minus the physical assaults, the speed at which the ball is thrown (which is at times a maximum of 50 miles an hour), can cause a concussion too. Most importantly, if you are a goalie, then you run a higher risk of getting a concussion.
How to avoid: Well, to be honest, protective headgears can do little or nothing to save you from concussions. And yet I say this – do not step into the water without a helmet on. Another great tactic that has helped me keep my head safe was by lining the hollow of a helmet with a layer (or two) of bubble wrap. Have you ever wondered why delicate pieces of porcelain are wrapped with bubble wraps before they are sent in transit? It is because they can absorb the shock to a great extent, thus saving the delicate structures within (read: your brain).
2. Facial injuries
Facial injuries are typical yet acute injuries among water polo players. The occasional scratches and gashes are not something that cannot heal with time. But considering that your face has most of your sensory organs, it does put you in a fix. You could get your nose broken by an elbow thrust, or your eyeballs scratched thanks to an opponent’s (at times, your team mate’s) nails.
It was while researching for dissertation writing that a college student had uncovered that there have been 269 cases where players have complained about perforated eardrums. Thanks to this, the need for protective gear was brought to the forefront. Inflictions on your eyes and ears can be a permanent wound and leave your impaired forever. A punch on your face could even mean a broken pair of incisors.
How to avoid: You may find it humiliating to don a pair of water goggles when none of your teammates cared to wear a pair. They might bully you a bit. But do not let that stop you from taking preventative care. To protect your teeth, you can wear a mouth-guard. You should also protect your skin from the chlorine content in the water. Try to wear long-sleeved swimming costumes to limit exposure to the chemical.
3. Labrum tear (SLAP-lesion)
Your shoulder is often a feeble victim when it comes to water polo injuries due to overhead throwing activities. You have to admit the fact that the ease of movements is hindered to a great extent due to water. Lifting and moving your shoulder can be difficult against the lashing water. But most often, it is during blocking an attack that you are most likely to suffer a muscular contusion on your shoulder. This could result in a labrum tear or a rotating cuff injury causing a displaced shoulder socket.
How to avoid: The easiest way would be to wear fiber shoulder pads. But the only problem is that the bulk of it could weigh you down. So, go for the lightest option. And if you suffer unbearable pain in your shoulder, do not delay. Go for a check-up immediately. Depending on the severity of the tear, you may need surgery. Your doctor/physician might ask you to practice physiotherapy as well.
4. Spinal injuries
Every water sport involves a considerable amount of swimming and water polo is no exception. The repetitive rotation of the cervical spine while swimming in the freestyle is the root for neck pain in water polo players. While this could seem trivial, persisting neck pain can lead to an acute wryneck, thus stiffening your spinal cord and drying up the vertebral fluid. Also, if you continue to play in the water for a long period without breaks, or if you over-train in water, you may develop osteoarthritis
How to avoid: You could ask for aquatic spine boards from the authorities or the management responsible for organizing the match. On a personal level, you could get a neck collar made according to your measurements. Even if you are not wearing it in the pool, keep it handy at the deck. You can also do these exercises to keep your upper and lower back muscles smooth to avoid muscle sores. The head needs to be immobilized in a neutral position, and extension movements should be particularly avoided.
Although the most common wounds come from the ball or another player, several water polo injuries are not dependent on physical contact. Water polo is a sport that involves heavy stress. As I have mentioned before, the sport calls for a lot of slogging that involves all your joints to work together. You need to remember that you are human and human bodies need rest. Learn to take a cue and stop before your shoulders and knees rebel. So listen to your trainer. Say no to junk food and bid a permanent farewell to an unhealthy lifestyle.