Water polo athletes take note: A new study by University of California, Irvine researchers maps out the frequency of head injuries in the sport and reveals which positions are the most vulnerable. The first-of-its-kind report, which track several dozen male collegiate water polo players over three seasons; hence was publish today in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed, open-access scientific journal.
Football related brain injuries
For years, water polo’s head trauma risks have downplay or overshadow by football relate brain injuries,” said study co-author James Hicks, professor and chair of UCI’s Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. “Our data quantifies the extent of the problem and sets the stage for additional research and possible rule changes or protective gear to improve water polo safety.
During the study, players wore caps embed with electronic sensors. Over time, every participant got bopped in the head by balls or rival players; but some fare worse occasionally far worse than others. Offensive players were more likely to get batter than defensive and transition positions (60% versus 23% and 17%, respectively).
And swimmers attacking from the left side of the goal suffer more head hits than players on the right; so possibly because right-hand athletes commonly throw shots from the left zone; so there’s more activity in that area, researchers theorized. The most unsafe position, according to the study, was offensive center.
On average, those players endure nearly seven blows to the skull per game; which amount to 37% of all head impacts record by UCI scientists. In contrast, the second-most vulnerable position, defensive center, average two head strikes a game, the study find.
Average of 18 head hits
Overall, researchers count an average of 18 head hits per game. Although no concussions were diagnose; so the force of the blows was “similar to those observe in collegiate soccer, another sport that is commonly study for the risks associate with repeat head impact exposure,” Hicks said. Next up, UCI researchers are preparing a manuscript that details how water polo head shots affect brain function.
Hicks got interest in the subject while watching his three sons play the sport. “People who’ve never seen a game may not realize how physical it is,” he said. “Head-butts and elbows. Balls flying up to 50 mph. they’ve witness players get drag out of the pool in a daze after a blow to the head, and I’ve sat in an emergency room while my kid receive stitches from being struck in the face. I began to wonder what the concussion rate was.
After discovering a dearth of studies, they launch his own. In the first, publish three years ago in Frontiers in Neurology; Hicks and Dr. Steven Small, UCI professor of neurology, survey 1,500 USA Water Polo members and discover that 36% recall suffering at least one concussion during their playing career.