water polo injuries

At COR, we work with a lot of aquatic athletes. Most of these athletes are swimmers, but they aren’t the only unique aquatic animals.

Water polo athletes are other unique beasts, in all honesty more complicated than swimmers. Unlike swimmers, water polo players not only swim, but use many other motions. Eggbeater kick, counterattacks, kicking (each other), suit pulling, throwing, passing, you name it, water polo does. Unfortunately, many of these motions aren’t “natural” motions for humans. This results in many orthopedic injuries and trips to physical therapy. This post is not about injuries, instead performance of the eggbeater kick.

The eggbeater kick is another complex and unique motion. Sanders (2005) described eggbeater:

“[t]he eggbeater kick movement is an alternating rotating kick to maintain body height and position. The hips start in a position close to 80 degrees of flexion and 90 degrees of abduction, with close to 30 degrees of lateral rotation. The knee is flexed close to 15° and laterally rotated at the start of the kick. During the kick, the hips and knees are extended, adducted, and medially rotated to produce power in the stroke. Propulsion occurs due to hydrodynamic lift forces and drag forces that are created by the rapid downward and inward movements of the foot and leg during the stroke.

Ask a water polo player and they can’t describe the complexity of the eggbeater kick. Like many sporting activities, knowing how to perform the motion and knowing how to describe it are entirely different. However, being able to test the strength, power, and endurance of the eggbeater is key for elite performance and improvement. At COR, we use tons of tests during our sports screening and aquatic animals take us out of our box and to the pool.

Recent research by Melchiorri (2015), we have incorporated the water polo overload testing/training (WOT). The WOT takes measuring eggbeater kick to the next level. Unlike the traditional, eggbeater for 10 minutes, the WOT challenges elite and nonelite water polo players.

WOT Procedure

Melchiorri describes how to set-up the WOT:WOT water polo eggbeater kick resistance test

“[a] jacket was assembled to be adaptable to fit the body size of the athlete. It was homemade and created by joining 5-cm-width seat belts and using some sewing thread specific for chlorinated water. It was possible to obtain a versatile, robust, and long-lasting jacket. Two parallel bands 100 cm long were attached at a distance of 20 cm from each other. Four transverse bands were sewn, 2 at the ends and 2 at intermediate distances (1 at chest height and 1 behind the shoulders) with enough space left for the introduction of the head. Two lateral bands, 2-cm width, and buckle fasteners on the waist were added to guarantee the highest adherence. In front and behind the body, at the end of the two 100-cm long bands, 4 other bands, 2.5-cm width and 80-cm long, were attached. They joined in a stainless snap hook where the overload was applied. Thus, during the test, the overload lied down between the legs of the subject without hindering the natural “eggbeater” movement. The jacket, being properly secure to your body, did not hinder breathing or mobility.”

This device can be made at home with a chest harness, chain, and rubberized circular weight. Another option is by using a heavy resistance chain on the shoulders.

What the WOT Shows

Melchiorri’s research demonstrated a high correlation between water polo skill levels and WOT to failure. This makes the test a great tool for monitoring eggbeater improvement as well as differentiating elite eggbeater kickers from subelite.

Have a Poor Eggbeater Kick or Poor WOT…Try This

First, no two eggbeater kicks are alike. Therefore, knowing you have a weak eggbeater kick is just the first step. The next step, is understanding why it is weak, then giving you the tools for enhancing the weakness. Poor eggbeater can occur from a poor range of motion, strength, and motor control (muscle control). Here are some common methods we give for improving eggbeater kick at COR:

Poor Range of Motion

As Sanders described above, hip range of motion is key for an elite eggbeater kick. Here are our top three mobility exercises for hip range of motion:

Poor Strength

High levels of core and hip strength are mandatory for elite eggbeater kicking. Here are a few of our strengthening exercises for eggbeater strength:

Poor Motor Control

Next, integrating core and hip coordination is key for enhancing the eggbeater kick. Here are a few exercises we’ve had success with at COR:

Summary

When looking to improve any skill, finding a test which translates to the activity is mandatory. Unfortunately, water polo is a unique sport with unique skills, making this testing difficult. The WOT is a great method for measuring eggbeater skill in water polo players, but measuring eggbeater skill is only part 1, next is improving it. At COR, we don’t only measure, we prescribe effective exercises, giving each water polo player the tools for eggbeater improvement. After training, it is key to reassess the test, ensuring the training is important.

At COR, we test a skill, provide a plan for improvement, then re-test. This keeps us honest and helps guide us for elite performance. Make sure you’re taking all these steps for elite performance, especially in a unique sport like water polo! Remember, water polo players aren’t simply football players wearing Speedos in the pool!

References:

  1. Sanders RH. Strength, flexibility and timing in the eggbeater kick. 2005. Available at:http://coachesinfo.com/category/waterpolo/5/01.03.05. Accessed May 15, 2014.
  2. Melchiorri G, Viero V, Triossi T, Tancredi V, Galvani C, Bonifazi M. Testing and Training of the Eggbeater Kick Movement in Water Polo: Applicability of a NewMethod. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Oct;29(10):2758-64. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000946.

Dr. John Mullen

PHYSICAL THERAPY, PERSONAL TRAINING, SPORTS TEAM TRAINING, BOOT CAMP, ONLINE TRAINING, CONSULTING

Dr. John Mullen, DPT, CSCS is a World renowned expert and speaker in sports training and rehabilitation. He received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy at USC, as well as the Josette Antonelli Division Service Scholarship, Order of the Golden Cane, and the Order of Areté. At USC, he also performed research on swimming biomechanics and lung adaptations in swimming training. Dr. John has worked with multiple professional and Olympic athletes, helping them earn Olympic medals. His dedication to research and individualization spurred him to open COR in 2011. Since 2011, Dr. John has been featured in Stack Magazine, Swimming World Magazine, Swimmer Magazine, USA Swimming, USA Triathlon, Swimming Science, and many more.  Before his Doctoral program, Dr. John swam on an athletic scholarship at Purdue University. At Purdue, Dr. John was an Academic Honorable Mention All-American and was awarded the Red Mackey Award and R. O. Papenguh Award. He also won the Purdue Undergraduate business plan and elevator pitch competition, as well as 1st prize with the Indiana Soy Bean Alliance. Dr. John was born in Centerville, Ohio and was a 24-time high school All-American Swimmer. Dr. John is still a swimmer and holds a Masters swimming World and Pacific Swimming Record.

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