MOTUS Specialists Physical Therapy has been named the official physical therapy clinic for USA Men’s and Women’s Water Polo for the elite level athletes as they prepare and compete for Gold in the 2020 Olympic games.

“Our world class athletes deserve to have world class options for injury treatment and prevention,” said USAWP Chief High Performance Officer John Abdou. “We are incredibly fortunate to have MOTUS in our pool of resources locally here in Orange County.”

The sport of water polo dates back to mid-19th century, the modern game of water polo is “unique combination of swimming, throwing, and martial arts”.(1) Physiologically demanding, as it requires an array of short, intense bursts. Given the physical nature of the sport and limited protective equipment, water polo players are susceptible to a range of injuries.

As with injuries in any sport, the best treatment option is prevention. “Our goals are to allow each athlete an opportunity to stay physically healthy or return from an injury to the levels they once were. We are excited to help play a role in keeping USA Water Polo athletes in the pool healthy and pain-free as they go for gold,” said Dr. Drew Morcos, President and CEO of MOTUS Specialists Physical Therapy.

Primary prevention components include ample flexibility, mobility, neuromuscular control, and stability. Functional evaluations specific for each athlete should be performed to examine core strength, flexibility, mobility, proprioception, and multiplanar control to best determine the appropriate rehabilitation program. Maintenance of full hip mobility, ROM, and strength of the abductors, adductors, internal and external muscles plus optimal core stability is critical to preventing hip and groin injuries as well as knee pain due to the load on eggbeater kicking.(2) Dynamic stretching targeting ankles, hips, thoracic spine and shoulders are necessary to prepare for the demands of the sport.

Acute injuries are often the result of contact with an opposing player, resulting in a number of traumatic injuries such as contusions, lacerations, sprains, dislocations, or fractures.

Water polo players are also at risk for many different overuse injuries given that the sport is played in the water, which provides a unique biomechanical challenge to the body, especially the upper extremities, spine, and knees.  

With repetitive overhead throwing, swimming, combined with contact injuries that can occur in the act of throwing, tackling or blocking in water, without a solid base of support lacking a lower body point of contact creates a lot of stress on the upper extremity. These actions can be responsible for causing injuries that may include bursitis or tendinopathy of the rotator cuff muscles, tendonitis of the biceps, shoulder impingement, and elbow ligament, cartilage and impingement injuries. These injuries can often be treated conservatively with physical therapy. The lack of a solid base in the water also places an increased load on the lower extremities, as water polo players have to constantly tread water to stay afloat. This “egg beater” kick places strain on the proximal hip muscles and knees. The sheer volume of egg beater kicking and rotational component can result in muscle strains and pain focal to the knee. Fortunately, as with upper extremity overuse injuries, these can often be treated conservatively.

As movement specialists, identifying biomechanical factors that may contribute to inefficient shooting or swimming technique could include: reduced hip motion, poor coordination of the eggbeater kick, reduced thoracic or pelvic rotation, incorrect timing of the kinetic chain and poor scapular or core stability. These biomechanical deficiencies can result in injuries or affect the recovery of an injured athlete.

We are proud to partner with USA Water Polo’s National Team to help make their dream of standing on top of the podium come true by doing our part as physical therapists and movement specialists,” said Dr. Drew Morcos.

(1) Franić M, Ivković A, Rudić R. Injuries in Water Polo. Croatian medical journal. 2007;48(3):281-288.

(2) Mosler AB, Blanch PD, Hiskins BC. The effect of manual therapy on hip joint range of motion, pain and eggbeater kick performance in water polo players. PhysTher Sport 2006; 7:128-136.

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