Back Injuries in Water Polo Players

08 July, 2020
Water Polo is a sport that involves a lot of flexing and rotation of the back. This can lead to injury.
 

Water polo involves a number of different risks. There are many conditions common in water polo players, including shoulder, knee, head, and back injuries. In fact, there are serious risks of suffering structural damage if back injuries aren’t treated properly once out of the pool.

The most common injuries in water polo players

The most common injuries that water polo players suffer from are head and shoulder injuries. In particular, tooth and eye injuries are very common and there’s a high chance of shoulder, elbow, and hand problems because of the throwing action involved.

Similarly, due to the constant kicking of the legs, knee problems (lateral ligaments and the meniscus in particular) are also common. However, today we’re going to look at back injuries in water polo players.

Back injuries in water polo

Water polo players are constantly rotating and flexing their backs. This might be when in defense to block an opponent or in the offense to pass or throw the ball.

This repeated combination of movements is what’s most damaging to the back. When playing, there’s greater tension on the intervertebral discs and the surrounding structures. This increases the risks of herniated discs and disc strains or tears.

Furthermore, water polo players tend to develop spinal curvature problems over time, both in the upper and lower back.

Players in a water polo match.
 

This happens because, with so much training and game time, the explosive force of the anterior trunk muscles and the arm abductor muscles is being intensely worked.

Prevention for back injuries in water polo

As with any sport, the easiest way to prevent associated injuries is to simply stop playing. But obviously, this isn’t a particularly attractive option if you really enjoy it. So, it’s important to find ways to strengthen your body and reduce the risk of injuring yourself.

  • Strengthening the protagonist and antagonist muscle groups. It’s important to keep a balance between the strength of the muscles that carry out movements and their counterparts. In other words, if you do a lot of work on your anterior trunk muscles when doing sports, you need to make sure that you also exercise your posterior muscles.
  • Stretching. Maintaining good flexibility will prevent muscles from shortening and help prevent back curvatures.
  • Back and abdominal work. Having well-conditioned abs will help support the back muscles, and doing back exercises will prevent other muscles from being overused when playing sport.
A water polo player training to avoid back injuries.
 

  • Good technique. It’s absolutely essential to make sure that you have good technique and move correctly. You will make these movements hundreds, if not thousands of times. If you’re moving incorrectly, then an injury is inevitable.
  • Good posture. Whether playing sports or just in your daily life, maintaining good posture is key to preventing back injuries. If you put your back under a lot of stress when playing sports, you need to allow it to rest and recover. Coming out of a workout and sitting slouched or hunched over a computer will just speed up back curvature problems.

Other prevention tips

Finally, it’s also really important to manage your workloads properly. When training, rest is crucial, and you need to give your back time to recover. Avoid training every day, or alternate the type of training you do each day so that parts of your body can rest.

This way, you’ll avoid constantly pressuring the same muscle groups. Also, make sure any changes to your training routine are gradual. If you want to increase the intensity or duration of your workouts, you need to let your body get used to it gradually.

 
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  • C. Ferragut, H. Vila, J. Abraldes et al. Relationship among maximal grip, throwing velocity and anthropometric parameters in elite water polo players. Journal of Sports Medicine and Fitness 51:26-32, 2011
  • L. McCluskey, S. Lynskey, C. Leung et al. Throwing velocity and jump height in female water polo players: Performance predictors. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. Vol 13, Issue 2, Pages 236-240, 2010