Polo is one of the world’s oldest equestrian sports, and although it has a relatively low incidence of injuries its percentage of severe injuries is high.
Matthew Sala, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at The Wellington Hospital, looks at the preventative measures to take against polo player’s most common injuries.
Today the polo remains one of our most iconic sports, much-loved and played by the royals and their associates, as well as being a staple part of a Londoner’s summer diary.
The forces in play during a polo match are formidable with horses weighing up to 500kg and galloping at speeds close to 65km/h, it therefore comes as no surprise that 64 per cent of all polo injuries are classed as severe.
Acute injuries are most commonly called by falls, but also from balls travelling at high speed, mallets, collisions and falling from or under a horse at high speed.
Some 39 per cent of injuries occur in the arms, 31 per cent of injuries in the legs, 19 per cent to the head, sex per cent to the face and five per cent in the back. Fractures account for 39 per cent of injuries, mostly form a fall from the horse.
In a group of professional players studied in Argentina, only seven out of 55 players reported no injury over the preceding five year period.
One of the problems we see in the ‘polo shoulder’ is rotator cuff impingement; this can give rise to progressive pain, typically at the side of the shoulder, when elevating the arm above shoulder height or behind the back; insidious at first but later becoming severe and debilitating.
Professional and leisure polo players are likely to spend hours practising their stroke, stick and ball practice, even on a wooden horse; but rarely have I known players to go through a warm-up routine, let along sport specific exercise training. Prevention is effective; especially of injury caused by repetitive overuse.
Stretching is important to maintain good shoulder and hip flexibility.
Shoulder, back hip and knew conditioning exercise will help avoid injury from overuse and enhance performance.
Specific theraband and free weight exercise in order to strengthen shoulder rotators.
Develop good quadriceps and hamstring tone.
Maintain good core strength and spinal posture.