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Shouldering the load of water polo I t’s that time of year again. Kids no longer get to sleep in till ten, carpools are getting organized and parents are breathing a little sigh of relief. That’s right, it’s back to school and the fall semester is now underway. It’s not all doom and gloom, for many of us this is the best time of year because it also means the start of fall sports. One of the fall sports growing in popularity here in the Bay Area is water polo, and as its popularity grows so does interest in the impact it has on young athletes. Current research on water polo players, reports that shoulder pain is the most common complaint. How common is shoulder injury in water polo players? It has been found that: ■ Shoulder pain has an incidence rate of 38% to 80% ■ Females have a 4.8% higher incidence rate than males ■ Shoulder injuries are reported in 67% of water polo athletes by the time they reach collegiate or post-collegiate levels. That is a lot of injuries, and those numbers are a cause for concern. However, research shows that most of the shoulder pain in water polo athletes is from overuse injuries rather than traumatic injury. Why is this important? Because 50% of all overuse injuries are preventable. So what is causing water polo players to have so many shoulder injuries? Water polo players are predisposed to shoulder injury due to: ■ Increased demand on rotator cuff muscles with both swim stroke and throwing ■ Decreased strength and activation for scapular muscles (back shoulder blade region) ■ Repeated throwing in the water causing overuse strain and muscle imbalances So what exactly can be done to help address these issues for our young athletes? Here are a few things to focus on: ■ Athletes can work on rotator cuff muscles to help stabilize the shoulder with exercises that incorporate internal and external rotation of the shoulder. ■ Train the scapular stabilizers like the serratus anterior and the mid/lower trapezius with rowing type exercises. ■ Prepare for activity with a proper dynamic warm-up which can be found on our website at The most important way to prevent shoulder injury is to pay attention to your body and your technique. Look for clues in movement or practice that would indicate shoulder pain, determine if it is muscle soreness or shoulder pain and stop immediately if there is pain that is causing you to alter your swim stroke or shooting motion. ✪ Health Watch Tom Clennell Tom Clennell is a physical therapist for the Sports Medicine For Young Athletes center in Walnut Creek, a division of Children’s Hospital Oakland. If you have questions or comments regarding the “Health Watch” column, write the SMFYA staff at Health@SportStarsMag. com. Support Your Local Business • Say You Found Them In SportStars™ September 9, 2010 SportStars™ 27

Issue 7, 09.09.2010

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