Category Archives: Sport

Two-fold higher risk of concussions for NFL players during colder game-days

The higher rates occurred during games played in 10 degrees Celsius or colder when compared with games played in temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius or warmer.

Researchers also found an increased rate of shoulder injuries when games were played on natural grass compared to synthetic turf — about 1.36 times higher.

The study, published today in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, examined risk factors associated with the five most common NFL injuries during two regular seasons between 2012 and 2014.

“There has been a lot of discussion recently about the significant risk of injury in the NFL and general player safety, particularly regarding concussions,” said Dr. David Lawrence, lead author of the study and a clinical fellow at St. Michael’s Hospital. “The first step in improving player safety and lowering that risk is to identify the factors affecting injury rates. Once we can answer those questions, we can begin to modify player exposure.”

Previous research by Dr. Lawrence found that the overall risk of injury in the NFL is about three times higher than professional rugby and 25 times higher than the NHL. Similarly, the concussion risk for NFL players is three times higher than rugby and five times higher than the NHL, according to his research.

“Early evidence suggests that musculoskeletal and repeated concussive injuries associated with football can cause long-term complications such as osteoarthritis and neurophysiological conditions,” said Dr. Lawrence. “It’s important that we better understand these factors and prevent as many injuries as possible.”

The most frequent injuries were knee-related, followed by ankle, hamstring, shoulder and concussions. External influences examined in the study included playing surface, climate factors, travel times and game outcomes.

“There is limited research looking at the external risk factors for injuries in the NFL,” said Dr. Lawrence. “Given this is one of the first studies to look at these variables, we can only speculate at this time on the underlying causes for the associations we observed with specific injuries on game-days.”

For example, Dr. Lawrence suggested players could mistake symptoms of a concussion during warmer temperatures for heat-related illness. Equipment and materials in the playing environment have lower elasticity at colder temperatures and may increase the impact force. There could also be higher reporting of injuries during colder games because players interact more closely with athletic staff in lower temperatures.

“Our findings contribute to the growing body of evidence surrounding this topic, but further research is needed” said Dr. Lawrence. “Applying this information may help inform future injury prevention strategies in the NFL, or other professional sports, and highlight the effects of these seemingly small external factors.”

What happens when sports rules go awry?

The research was carried out by Professor Graham Kendall, at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) and Dr Liam Lenten, at La Trobe University in Australia. They are operational research and economics scientists — experts in the use of advanced analytical techniques to improve decision making — and their findings have just been published online in theEuropean Journal of Operational Research.

The study was carried out in response to a recent analysis of sporting rules which called for more research to consider the rules of sports and tournaments and whether changes have led to unintended consequences.

Professor Kendall and Dr Lenten looked at specific examples of where the rules have led to unforeseen and/or unwanted consequences.

Professor Kendall said: “We compiled cases of ill-conceived rules which caused perverse unintended consequences. We discuss the implications for sports administrators and for policy makers in general. The hope is that it will help them review what has not previously worked and encourage them to engage with the scientific community when considering making rule changes.”

The interdisciplinary paper which cuts across economics, sport and operational research, looked at sports where the rules remain static and those where the rules change almost every year. The paper lists the sports in alphabetical order, to make the research more accessible.

The sports that are discussed include; athletics, baseball, cricket, cycling, football, hockey, tennis and rugby.

Professor Kendall said: “Many of the rule changes highlighted in this paper are aimed at making the sporting event more exciting. These are the rules that often lead to an unexpected occurrence which was not foreseen, even if it has the desired effect for the vast majority of the time.

“We hope that one consequence of this paper is that the scientific community and the sports industry can work more closely together in order to study the effects of potential rule changes before they are implemented, or implemented in such a way that they can be studied before wider adoption.

“As a call to action, perhaps the governing bodies of the major sports could invite academic representatives onto their committees, who would be tasked with identifying possible loopholes in proposed rule changes, perhaps in consultation with the wider scientific community. Alternatively, proposed rule changes could be posted in a public forum and interested academics could comment, perhaps after running simulations?”

European soccer increasingly popular in the USA

The sports economists from Tübingen analyzed the interest of US citizens in European soccer competitions and Major League Soccer (MLS), the highest level soccer league in the USA and Canada, for the very first time. They focused on factors, which affect the demand for soccer tele-casts. Based on their estimations, the researchers were able, amongst others, to derive a preference ranking of the most popular international soccer competitions for the American TV audience.

Ever since the USA was nominated as the host country for FIFA’s Soccer World Cup in 1994, the interest in soccer has grown in the country. “This is well-known,” say the experts, “and is partly reflected in the numbers of people tuning in to soccer games on TV. Reported audience figures of English Premier League games, for example, have now exceeded those of regular season games of the National Hockey League (NHL), the top North American ice hockey league. However, they continue to lag far behind the leading sports in North America, i.e. American football, basketball and baseball.

The Tübingen study now surveys figures on different aspects of the American soccer market in detail for the first time. A US-wide representative sample of more than 6,500 people was used to gather the extensive data. A screen-out question at the beginning of the surveys enabled the experts to focus on individuals, who indicated at least a basic interest in soccer. “These were almost 50 percent in both survey rounds — a share far higher than had been expected for the US market, which is dominated by the three major sports,” the researchers stated.

The survey participants were asked, amongst others, about their favorite soccer competitions. Among the seven competitions, the greatest interest was indicated for the English Premier League, followed by the UEFA Champions League, the American MLS and the Spanish La Liga. According to this ranking, the German Bundesliga is in position five ahead of the Italian Serie A and the French Ligue 1. The highest share of people interested in European soccer clubs were found in the states of California and New York. Roughly 3.5 percent of the soccer interested individuals mentioned Bayern Munich as their favorite club. This means that Bayern Munich is one of the top 10 most popular European and North American soccer teams in the USA; the list is headed by England’s Manchester United, followed by Spain’s FC Barcelona.

The focus of the study was put on exploring factors, which affect the demand for international soc-cer telecasts. It emerged that soccer fans from an MLS city as well as the younger generation had on average a greater interest in international soccer games. Moreover, it was found that the Spanish-speaking population occupies a disproportionately important position among soccer fans. “This might explain why games played by Bayer Leverkusen with the Mexican star Javier Herández Balcázar (aka Chicharito) were very popular in the 2015/2016 season,” say the sports economists. The study also confirms for the first time empirically that “competitive balance” in soccer competitions plays a significant role in the USA. Leagues offering close championship races are perceived as being exciting and attract more spectators than competitions dominated by just few clubs.

The study benefited from a João Havelange Research Scholarship with which FIFA supports inde-pendent research projects on soccer. The study’s findings have been published as a book.

future for skiing in a warmer world

Chances are if you know anything about Norway, you know it’s a place where skiing was born.

Norse mythology describes gods and goddesses hunting on skis, and 4000-year-old petroglyphs from northern Norway include some of the earliest known drawings of people on skis. One of the most recognizable Norwegian paintings worldwide depicts two skiers in 1206 fleeing to safety with the country’s two-year-old prince, Håkon Håkonsson.

Over the centuries, skiing in Norway has evolved from a practical mode of winter transport to a sport that is deeply ingrained in Norwegian culture. Norwegians themselves like to say they enter the world uniquely prepared for their northern home — because they are “born with skis on their feet.”

But warmer weather due to climate change has made for less-than-stellar ski conditions in Norway and across Europe. Advances in snowmaking, where water is “seeded” with a protein from a bacterium that allows snow to be made at temperatures right around freezing, simply aren’t enough to keep up with the changing climate.

In response, a team of Norwegian researchers has been awarded a NOK 2.3 million grant from the Norwegian Ministry of Culture to develop a new approach to snowmaking — one that would allow snow to be made in an energy-efficient way, even at warmer temperatures. The project has been named, appropriately enough, “Snow for the Future.”

Putting heat pumps to work

Traditional snowmaking makes up for a lack of snow by spraying water into cold air, and letting physics do the rest. But if temperatures are above freezing, this simply won’t work, for obvious reasons.

Researchers at SINTEF, Scandinavia’s largest independent research institute, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have worked extensively with a type of technology called a heat pump. They think that heat pumps could be key to producing snow in an environmentally friendly way, even at higher temperatures. Your refrigerator and freezer are examples of appliances that use heat pumps to regulate temperatures.

“One of the main aims of the project will be to find out how we can produce snow regardless of the outdoor temperature, and to develop energy-efficient ways of doing it,” says Petter Nekså, an energy research scientist at SINTEF.

Nekså thinks that one feasible approach is to develop heat pumps where the cold side can be used to produce snow, while the warm side is used for heating.

“If the air outside is cold, traditional snow cannons work very well. But these are temperature dependent,” says Nekså. “At higher temperatures, you need a refrigeration plant to make snow. The advantage is that the process is independent of air temperatures.”

What can make the process energy efficient is heating a building with the heat generated by the heat pump as it cools water to be made into snow, Nekså says.

“In this way, we can heat indoor facilities while also making artificial snow for ski slopes outside — virtually cost free,” he says.

Using heat and cold from heat pump technology

The approach involves adapting current heat pump technology, says Jacob Stang, one of Nekså’s colleagues at SINTEF.

“A traditional snow production facility that makes snow at zero degrees outdoors has no ‘hot side’,” Stang says. “That means we need a heat pump that has the properties of a refrigeration plant. We have to adapt components, such as an evaporator and condenser, to get them to work together.”

Storage and use

The project will be conducted in collaboration with the city of Trondheim, where SINTEF and NTNU are based, and the Norwegian Ski Federation (NSF).

The researchers are also hoping to develop better ways of storing snow, which is an approach many ski areas use as a hedge against warmer temperatures. Currently, many ski area use sawdust to store artificial snow that can be spread on slopes and trails when the weather doesn’t deliver the white stuff on its own. While this is a proven approach, over time the sawdust loses its insulating properties and has to be replaced.

The project will also identify new ways of making sure that ski areas get as much benefit as they can out of manufactured snow. The researchers will look at everything from the design and drainage of ski runs, to protection from sun and rain, salting and snow preparation.

Technology transfer from the fisheries industry

Researchers will conduct lab experiments, use computer models and simulations, create prototypes and undertake field tests.

“Norway has a long tradition and expertise in this field,” says Trygve M. Eikevik, a professor in NTNU’s Department of Energy and Process Engineering. “The fishery sector produces around 300 thousand tonnes of ice each year for fish export. This is enough to cover an 8-metre-wide, 150-kilometre-long ski trail with a layer of ice that is 0.5 metres thick. It is more than possible to manufacture snow for skiing.”

The NSF hopes the project will increase the chances that Norway will be able to host World Championships in skiing in the future, but officials are most concerned about maintaining skiing as a pastime in Norway. Communities across the country promote skiing by maintaining easily accessible, lighted and groomed ski trails and encouraging ski clubs. This strong system recruits young people to skiing, which has led to Norway’s prominence in both alpine and cross-country ski competitions. It also helps keep people healthy, by encouraging them to get outside to exercise in the winter.

“The challenges posed by climate change represent perhaps the greatest threat to ski sports. This is why we’re very pleased that this project is taking off,” says Marit Gjerland, who is a ski run consultant for the NSF. “Good results from the project will mean a lot for the future of ski sports.”

She says the technology could also expand the popularity of skiing, by making snow available in places where it previously wasn’t.

“Just like we have artificial football pitches, we could also create future snow parks,” she says.

Research centre for snow technology

One of the aims of the project is to establish a snow technology research centre based in Trondheim, where both Norwegian and international projects could be carried out.

“We envisage the development of more efficient refrigeration plants and snow production concepts, facilities designed for combined snow and heat production, and a total concept that integrates data models with meteorological data,” says Eikevik.

“We hope this will help promote innovation and business development related to future snow production facilities,” he says.

Enormously Popular of Sport

First, the authors demonstrated that females’ underrepresentation in sport–both as participants and spectators–generally reflects their lesser sports interest, not merely fewer opportunities for involvement. Moreover, this sex difference occurs in all societies described thus far, from hunters and gatherers to large contemporary societies. For example, in every society with available data, males participate in sports at least twice as much as females in terms of frequency or duration.

Next, the authors explored adaptive, functional hypotheses for sports. These are accounts of why humans would have evolved dispositions to be interested in sports, particularly how such dispositions could have affected the likelihood of survival and reproduction. Two hypotheses seem relevant for both males and females. One hypothesis focuses on the importance of needing to ally with coalitions in between-group contexts, while the other emphasizes the need to develop social and motor skills. Another hypothesis holds that individuals compete in sports to gain status and that nonparticipants monitor sports performances so they can evaluate potential competitors and allies. The evidence indicates that this hypothesis applies chiefly to males. A fourth hypothesis is that sports serve as courtship displays that advertise participant quality to the opposite sex. This hypothesis effectively explains some aspects of females’ sports interest.

Finally, the authors examined the proximate or near-term causes for the sex difference in sports interest. Although it is often assumed that socialization practices entirely cause this sex difference, the evidence that socialization plays a role remains equivocal. In particular, no experimental manipulation or systematic historical comparison has ever shown a decrease in the sex difference. Moreover, several studies indicate that prenatal hormones contribute to males’ greater sports interest.

The take-home points from this review are that the sex difference in sports interest is (1) substantial and widespread, (2) partly due to evolutionary pressures that differentially affected males and females, and (3) unlikely to be fully overturned by socialization. These points challenge the bedrock assumptions of many scholars and policy makers. Most notably, Title IX is a U.S. law that prohibits sexual discrimination in educational opportunities, including sports, and Title IX is generally implemented under the assumption that females’ sports interest is intrinsically equal to that of males. The present research indicates that this implementation may require revision.

Sports practice accounts

“While practice is necessary for elite athletes to reach a high level of competition, after a certain point, the amount of practice essentially stops differentiating who makes it far and who makes it to the very top,” said Brooke Macnamara, assistant professor of psychological sciences at Case Western Reserve University and lead author of the study.

“Human performance is incredibly complex,” she said. “Multiple factors need to be considered, only one of which is practice.”

The study was published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, with researchers analyzing 52 data sets on the relationship between practice and performance.

Athletes, parents, recruiters and coaches can use the findings to weigh the importance of practice time and investment, researchers suggest.

Overall, practice explains about 18 percent of why some athletes perform better or worse than others — with 82 percent of this difference attributed to factors other than practice.

The findings counter the notion that anyone can become an expert or elite athlete with 10,000 hours of practice, a theory inspired by research from Florida State University professor Anders Ericsson in the early 1990s and popularized in the mainstream since.

“The concept of 10,000 hours taps into the American ideal of hard work and dedication leading naturally to excellence,” said Macnamara. “But it does not account for the inherent differences across people and across sports.”

Starting age holds little to no advantage

While some research has suggested a younger starting age provides an athlete more time to build skills critical to attaining high performance levels, Macnamara’s findings offer contradictory evidence.

Higher-skill athletes start at about the same age as less-skilled athletes — or even began a little later — according to Macnamara’s research. In fact, athletes may benefit from waiting to specialize in one sport: A more physically mature athlete can accomplish the fundamentals of an activity more easily, with a lower risk of injury from overuse.

“People and parents who buy into the 10,000-hour rule can push early specialization in a sport, leading to physical or mental burnout before it’s clear that a child even has a penchant for that sport,” Macnamara said.

Factors other than practice believed to influence athletic performance include genetic attributes, such as fast-twitch muscles and maximum blood oxygenation level; cognitive and psychological traits and behaviors — including confidence, performance anxiety, intelligence and working memory capacity — play roles as well, though researchers don’t yet know the significance of each.

“As we look at multiple factors, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to — with 100 percent certainty — predict someone’s performance in any activity, not just sports,” Macnamara said. “But we can do better than we’re doing now.”

Rate of injuries among youth soccer players

The study, published online today in Pediatrics, found that from 1990 through 2014, the number of soccer-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments in the U.S. each year increased by 78 percent and the yearly rate of injuries increased by 111 percent among youth 7-17 years of age. By calculating the rate using participation data, researchers were able to show that the rising number of injuries comes not just from the increase in the number of young players participating in the sport but also because players are now being treated more frequently for injuries.

“The sport of soccer has changed dramatically in the last 25 years,” said Huiyun Xiang MD, MPH, PhD, senior author and Director of Research Core at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “We’re seeing athletes play year-round now thanks to club, travel and rec leagues, and the intensity of play is higher than it ever has been. These factors combine to lead to more risk of injury.”

The majority of the injuries were sprains or strains (35 percent), fractures (23 percent) or soft tissue injuries (22 percent). While concussions and other closed-head injuries (CHIs) only accounted for just over 7 percent of the injuries overall, the rate of concussions/CHIs increased 1596 percent over the 25-year study period. Athletes with concussions/CHI were twice as likely to be admitted to the hospital as patients with other diagnoses.

“While we can’t tell from our data why the rate of concussions among soccer players is increasing, it is important for athletes and families to be aware of this issue and what they can do to reduce the risks,” said Tracy Mehan, MA, manager of translational research at the Center for Injury Research and Policy. “Young athletes take longer to recover from concussions than older athletes and they can put themselves at risk for second-impact syndrome and repeat concussions if they return to play too soon — both of which can lead to serious, life-altering injuries.”

The study also found that most of the injuries occurred when a player was struck by either another player or the ball (39 percent) or when they fell (29 percent). Older children and adolescents ages 12-17 years accounted for the majority of the injuries (73 percent) and girls were more likely than boys to sustain a knee or an ankle injury.

Researchers say following a few guidelines can help keep your athlete out on the field:

  • Participate in a pre-season conditioning program that focuses on building core muscles, strengthening neck muscles, and working on hip and thigh strength.
  • Warm up before you play
  • Always wear the recommended protective gear (shin guards, mouth guards)
  • Follow and enforce the rules. Many injuries occur during illegal play or when coaches or referees don’t enforce the rules.
  • Learn about concussions. Know the symptoms of concussions and how to spot them. Encourage players to report any hits to the head even if they happen in practice. Make sure to follow concussion management and return-to-play policies.
  • Limit heading for younger players. Only allow heading once children reach 11 years of age and introduce it slowly by limiting the amount of heading in practice for children 11-13 years of age.

Data for this study were obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which is operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The NEISS database provides information on consumer product-related and sports- and recreation-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments across the country.

Diving

Competitive springboard and platform divers start training and competing at an early age. Many Olympic and world champions are 18 years of age and younger.

Diving is considered a collision sport because of the impact with the water on entry. A diver entering the water from the 10-meter platform is traveling almost 40 miles per hour. These forces are enough to break bones and dislocate joints. Divers are also at risk of injuries from hitting the board or platform as well as overuse injuries similar to gymnasts from frequent jumping, back arching, trunk flexion, and back twisting. Injuries can also occur from training on “dry land.” This type of training usually includes weight lifting and the use of spotting belts, trampolines, and springboards.

While injuries do occur in competitive diving, unsupervised or recreational diving is associated with a far greater risk of serious injury or even death. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about how to prevent diving injuries. Also included is an overview of common diving injuries.

Injury prevention and safety tips

  • Rules. Swimmers should follow pool rules at all times, including
    • Never swim alone. The pool should be supervised.
    • Don’t run on pool decks and wet areas. Abrasions and contusions (bruises) commonly occur from careless falls.
    • Don’t dive in shallow water or any water where the depth is not known.Swimmers should know how deep the pool is and avoid diving into shallow pools less than 3 feet deep. This will help prevent serious head and neck injuries.
  • Equipment. Safety gear includes
    • Swim caps
    • Sun protection (sunscreen, lip balm with sunblock) when outdoors
  • Emergency plan. Teams should develop and practice an emergency plan so that team members know their roles in emergency situations in or out of the water. The plan would include first aid and emergency contact information. All members of the team should receive a written copy each season. Parents also should be familiar with the plan and review it with their children.

Common injuries

Shoulder injuries

Shoulder injuries typically occur during water entry when arms extended overhead get forced back. Athletes usually feel the shoulder pop out of joint when their shoulders are dislocated. Most of the time the shoulder goes back into the joint on its own; this is called a subluxation (partial dislocation). If the athlete requires help to get it back in, it is called a dislocation. Risk of dislocation recurrence is high for youth participating in these sports. Shoulder strengthening exercises, braces and, in some cases, surgery may be recommended to prevent recurrence.

Chronic shoulder pain is usually due to a pinching of the rotator cuff (the tendons around the top of the shoulder). This is more common in athletes with weak shoulder blade muscles. Symptoms include a dull pain or achiness over the front or side of the shoulder that worsens when the arm is overhead. Treatment involves exercises to strengthen the shoulder blade muscles and the rotator cuff.

Neck injuries

Repetitive extension of the neck on water entry can cause an irritation of the neck joints. This results in muscle spasms and stiffness when rotating the neck or looking up. Athletes with tingling or burning down the arm may have a cervical disc herniation or “stinger” and should see a doctor. Stingers are stretch injuries to the nerves in the neck and spine. Because the force of impact is greater with 10-meter platform diving, there are more complaints of neck problems with tower divers.

Elbow injuries

Elbow pain can occur when an athlete’s elbow hyperextends on entry into the water. The ulnar nerve (“funny bone”) can be stretched and cause pain, numbness, or burning down the arm into the fingers. If the ligament of the elbow is stretched, it can cause pain, weakness, and instability of the elbow. Athletes with pain on the outside of the elbow may have a condition called osteochondritis dissecans. This condition can cause an inability to straighten the elbow and locking, catching, or swelling of the elbow. X-rays may beneeded to confirm diagnosis.

Wrist/hand injuries

When divers enter the water, they grasp their hands one on top of the other with the palm facing toward the water. As they try to “punch” a hole in the water, thewrist gets bent backward. Doing this repetitively causes pain, swelling, stiffness, and irritation of the wrist joint. This can be treated with rest, ice, and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs. Taping or bracing the wrist can also prevent further injury.

When divers reach for the water and attempt to grasp their hands for entry, they occasionally hyperextend the thumb. This causes a sprain to the base of the thumb. Symptoms include pain, swelling, instability, and weakness of the thumb. This can be treated, and may be prevented, by taping the thumb while diving. Occasionally, a custom thumb splint or even surgery is necessary to stabilize the thumb.

Low back pain

Spondylolysis, stress fractures of the bones in the lower spine, is due to overuse from arching or extending of the back. Symptoms include low back pain that feels worse with back extension activities. Back or reverse dives are often more painful. Treatment of spondylolysis includes rest from diving, physical therapy to improve flexibility and low back and core (trunk) strength, and possibly a back brace. Athletes with low back pain for longer than 2 weeks should see a doctor. X-rays are usually normal so other tests are often needed to diagnose spondylolysis. Successful treatment requires early recognition of the problem and timely treatment.

Disc injury may cause low back pain that occurs with flexion—including pike and tuck dives. The pain is usually worse on one side, extends into the buttock, and occasionally down the leg. Disc-related pain can also occur with sitting, lifting, jumping, and twisting. Successful treatment requires early recognition of the problem and timely treatment.

Knee injuries

There are thousands of jumps in practice for each dive seen in competition. Jumping causes pressure on the kneecap and can result in pain in the front of the knee. Patellar tendonitis (also called jumper’s knee) causes pain
just below the kneecap. Treatment requires identifying and addressing the causes of the pain.

The number of dives performed; dry land training; poor flexibility; strength imbalances; and malalignment of the hips, knees, and feet can also contribute to knee pain. Because corrective shoes, orthotics, and knee braces aren’t practical while diving, physical therapy, patellar taping, and training modifications are the mainstays of therapy.

Other medical issues

Divers are at risk for a variety of medical concerns as well, including

  • Swimmer’s ear and sinusitis from too much water in the ear
  • Ruptured eardrums from impact in the water and acute pressure changes
  • Cuts, scrapes, bruises, fractures, and head or facial injuries from hitting the board, platform, or pool deck
  • Sunburn or rashes from the sun

Water Polo

Water polo is an intense sport that requires athletes to tread water and swim for long periods. There is a version for younger athletes that allows them to stand in shallow water or hang onto the side of the pool, but this is illegal in competitive water polo.

Acute and overuse injuries are common in water polo. Acute injuries usually occur when guarding a player or wrestling for the ball. Overuse injuries are often the result of repeated swimming and throwing motions and treading water. As in many sports, the risk of injury increases with age due to the style of play, contact forces, and size of athletes. However, the risk of injuries can be reduced.

The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about how to prevent water polo injuries. Also included is an overview of common injuries.

Injury prevention and safety tips

  • Sports physical exam. Athletes should have a preparticipation physical evaluation (PPE) to make sure they are ready to safely begin the sport. The best time for a PPE is about 4 to 6 weeks before the beginning of the season. Athletes also should see their doctors for routine well-child checkups.
  • Fitness. Athletes should maintain a good fitness level during the season and off-season. Preseason training should allow time for general conditioning and sport-specific conditioning. Athletes with poor stamina are more likely to get hurt both in and out of the water. Also important are proper warm-up and cool-down exercises.
  • Technique. Athletes should learn and practice safe techniques for performing the skills that are integral to their sport. Athletes should be confident in their ability to swim in close spaces with others. If not, they should begin playing in the shallow end in case they need to stand. Athletes should work with coaches and athletic trainers on achieving proper technique.
  • Equipment. Safety gear should fit properly and be well maintained.
    • Polo caps with ear guards to reduce the risk of ear injury
    • Mouth guards
    • Swim goggles
    • Sunscreen protection (sunscreen, lip balm with sunblock) when swimming outdoors
  • Environment. Pool water should be checked by persons in charge of pool maintenance. Excess chemicals and chlorine may cause eye irritation and skin rashes. Hypothermia may occur when playing in cold water.
  • Rules. Water polo can be very rough. Much of the “contact” takes place underwater, where referees cannot see well. These fouls are often missed and can lead to injury. Parents and coaches should encourage good sportsmanship and fair play. For instance, athletes should never dunk an opponent under the water.
  • Emergency plan. Teams should develop and practice an emergency plan so that team members know their roles in emergency situations in or out of the water. The plan would include first aid and emergency contact information. All members of the team should receive a written copy each season. Parents also should be familiar with the plan and review it with their children.

Common injuries

Eye injuries

Eye injuries commonly occur in sports that involve balls but can also result from a finger in the eye. Any injury that affects vision or is associated with swelling or blood inside the eye should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist. Water polo players should wear swim goggles during practice and competition. The AAP recommends that children involved in organized sports wear appropriate protective eyewear.

Head injuries

Concussions often occur when an athlete gets hit in the head by another athlete (usually from their elbow). A concussion is any injury to the brain that disrupts normal brain function on a temporary or permanent basis.

The signs and symptoms of a concussion range from subtle to obvious and usually happen right after the injury but may take hours to days to show up. Athletes who have had concussions may report feeling normal before their brain has fully recovered. With most concussions, the player is not knocked out or unconscious.

Prematurely returning to play after a concussion can lead to another concussion or even death. An athlete with a history of concussion is more susceptible to another injury than an athlete with no history of concussion.

All concussions are serious, and all athletes with suspected concussions should not return to play until they see a doctor.

Shoulder injuries

Shoulder injuries usually occur from repetitive throwing and swimming motions. This may be due to weak muscles in the back and trunk of the body. Usually rehabilitation exercises focused on good posture and muscles of the shoulder blade and core, icing, medication, and rest are all that is necessary for treatment.

Finger injuries

Finger injuries occur when the finger is struck by the ball or an opponent’s hand or body. The “jammed finger” is often overlooked because of the myth that nothing needs to be done, even if it is broken. If fractures that involve a joint or tendon are not properly treated, permanent damage can occur.

Any injury that is associated with a dislocation, deformity, inability to straighten or bend the finger, or significant pain should be examined by a doctor. X-rays may be needed. Buddy tape may be all that is needed to return to sports; however, this cannot be assumed without an exam and x-ray. Swelling often persists for weeks to months after a finger joint sprain. Ice, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and range of motion exercises are important for treatment.

Knee injuries

Patellar pain syndrome is a common overuse injury from prolonged kicking and treading water. It causes pain in the front of the knee, sometimes associated with a bump, and can be severe. It is treated with ice, stretching, NSAIDs, and relative rest.

Athletes should see a doctor as soon as possible if they cannot walk on the injured knee. Athletes should also see a doctor if the knee is swollen, a pop is felt at the time of injury, or the knee feels loose or like it will give way.

Swiming

Swimming is a sport in which there is a great diversity among participants. There are both recreational and competitive swimmers, ranging in age from preschool through college. Most swimming-related orthopedic injuries are related to overuse and are seen in competitive athletes. However, many injuries can be prevented. Use the following tips and guidelines to help keep your athlete safe.

Safety tips

The following are ways to help prevent swimming-related sport injuries:

  • Never swim alone. Make sure the area is supervised.
  • Don’t run on pool decks and wet areas. Abrasions and contusions (bruises) commonly occur from careless falls.
  • Don’t dive in shallow water. Avoid diving into shallow pools less than 3 feet deep. This will help prevent serious head and neck injuries.
  • Find out if the starting block is at the shallow end. Swimmers using starting blocks in the shallow end need to be instructed on proper technique.
  • Prepare for emergencies. Plan what you would do if a player is injured in or out of the water. Know how deep the pool is. Know where lifeguards and first aid stations are.
  • Wear the right gear.
    • Properly fitted goggles
    • Swim caps
    • Sandals in the pool area
    • Sunscreen as necessary

Use of physical therapy

Physical therapy often is useful to strengthen weak muscles and stabilize joints. It can also improve a swimmer’s endurance and ability to train. Physical therapy is necessary to treat all of the medical and orthopedic conditions listed below and should be prescribed by a doctor.

Medical conditions

The following is a chart of different treatments for common medical conditions affecting swimmers.

Orthopedic conditions

Overuse injuries in swimming are related to repetitive stress to the swimmer’s body. Symptoms of an overuse injury usually include pain or discomfort, muscle weakness, alterations in stroke style, and the inability to keep up intense levels of training. Multiple factors must be considered for proper treatment. Workload, defined as either yardage or pool time, may need to be decreased during a time of injury. An evaluation of stroke technique may identify weaknesses, bad habits, or muscle-tendon imbalances that require correction. Lastly, the genetic predisposition to be excessively loose jointed, flexible, or stiff may require special consideration or treatment.