Water Polo: Throwing mechanics and associated injuries
By Asha Read
Water Polo is a pool-based sport, with a combination of swimming, throwing, and physicality. Water Polo was the first team-based Olympic sport – introduced in 1900 for men, and 2000 for women. It has re-emerged post-earthquake in Christchurch as a result of an increase in pool space and young athlete interest.
Due to the physical nature of the sport, it is important for an athlete to have a balance between strength, mobility, and agility, especially in the shoulder joint. There is a high, repetitive demand on the shoulder in both swimming and throwing, which makes it a common injury area for these athletes. Therefore, the coach’s role in technique development is key, and there are some important considerations regarding early specialisation.
There are 4 Phases of a Water Polo throw:
1.Wind up: combined with the Cocking phase, makes up 80% of the throw. It establishes the rhythm of the throw, and allows for power to develop from the lower half of the body.
2.Cocking: positions the legs, trunk, and shoulder to allow for full contribution to ball propulsion. Repetitive positioning (especially in the extremes) can result in shoulder laxity.
3.Acceleration: very explosive with high demand on the stabilising muscles of the shoulder. If these stabilising muscles are weak, it can result in poor technique and shoulder pain.
4.Deceleration: contraction of the shoulder stabilisers slows down the throw. Trunk position is also important in this phase to reduce the load on the shoulder.
It is important for your coach to pick up any bad throwing habits, such as poor body positioning, to prevent any overuse injuries from occurring. There are also a range of potential contributing factors such as thoracic mobility, poor scapular coordination, and muscle imbalances that can affect an athlete’s ability to throw efficiently. In saying this, an athlete’s adaptations to a sport may allow them to perform better in a task, injury-free – it is all dependent on the person.
If you are having any issues with these, Active Health physiotherapists can assess and treat any of these problems, or any others that may arise as a result of sport. If you had any further questions, feel free to get in touch.
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