The game of water polo requires players to constantly use their shoulders in uncomfortable and strenuous motions. In most sports that involve throwing, players have their feet on the ground and are able to use their whole body to complete a throwing motion. In water polo, players are in a pool and their feet are off of the ground. When throwing, they are required to put a lot more pressure on their shoulders. This can lead to shoulder dislocation, swimmer's shoulder, rotator cuff tears, and SLAP tears. The most common shoulder injury is with the rotator cuff. The severity of these injuries varies, but stretching and training properly can help reduce the risk.
Water polo is an extremely physical sport. A player's head is the only part of the body exposed outside of the water for the majority of the game. This makes the likelihood of a facial injury extremely high. Players are constantly moving fast and bumping into each other. It is rather common for players to get hit in the face with an elbow, a hand, a ball, or a head. Eye injuries are usually caused by an opponent's hand poking or scratching the eye. The most common facial injuries include facial contusions, swimmer's ear, eye injuries, and eardrum trauma.
The heavy use of arms in water polo leaves numerous opportunities for an elbow injury. Most commonly, elbows will be injured from stress during the repetitive throwing motion. Similar to shoulder injuries, because the player is not on the ground they are not able to utilize their full throwing motion. Players must compensate by putting extra stress on their arms and especially their elbows.
A water polo ball is heavier than a football, but lighter than a basketball. The combination of the motion and the weight makes for a terrible combination for the elbow. An elbow can also be injured from the swimming motion, getting hit in the elbow by another player, or by an unnatural movement.
Heads get hit a lot in water polo. Concussions are a much more common injury than many realize. Although players wear caps that protect their ears, the rest of their head is at great risk. A water polo ball is very hard and is often moving at fast speeds. Getting hit in the head by a shot or a hard pass can easily leave a player with a concussion. The severity of the concussion can change depending on the speed of the ball, the angle, and the individual players' body make up.
Due to the unnatural motions that water polo requires, spinal injuries can arise. These injuries are usually very serious and require a long recovery period. The rotation of the spine used while breathing and swimming puts a strain on the spine. Another cause of spinal injuries is from contact with another player. If there is a player that hits or kicks you in the wrong place of the back, they could trigger a spine injury. With spinal injuries usually comes neck pain, lower back pain, and wry neck. The three sections of the spine (cervical, thoracic, and lumbar) can be injured in water polo, but the cervical region is most commonly affected in water polo.