Common injuries and their causes
Lower back pain is perhaps the most common pain experienced by polo players, but ironically, it is also the most neglected.
Those who do not counterbalance certain movements of the horse (this does not mean that they are not good riders, just that they do not make the most of certain position which can protect the rider) are inclined to suffer from pain.
The human body is not built to deal with blows against a saddle, received, for example, when we grip, check or turn the horse.
These features of riding can lead to injuries, especially when the horse stops with its front legs, jumps or trips during the game. When we talk about inadequate riding, we mean holding the horse with one hand, sitting in the saddle, or gripping with both hands and not making use of the knees to counteract the blow. It is obvious that horses with a sense of balance and low action are less likely to cause these injuries -unbalanced, clumsy horses with elevated action cause problems.
Both counter-acting the movements of the horse and riding smoothly and evenly throughout the game are fundamental in diminishing the chances of pulling a muscle, and are key in protecting knee and hip joints. Pain can also develop in the lumbar region due to striking the ball in unnatural positions, such as when seated and twisting the torso alone, not the hips. Bending over the ball while striking, flexing the torso instead of the knees, which would be the correct movement, and also creating distance between the hand and the ball.
This explains why traumatologists recommend bending the knees, and not the torso, when picking an object off the floor. It is also true that the majority of injuries start developing on the right side (off-side) – the inclination of the body produces an asymmetrical spinal pressure on that side. It is natural, therefore, that back pain begin on the right side of the body. Having uneven stirrup length, positioning one leg below the other, also encourages spinal injury.
We can therefore conclude that deficient riding, bad horses and an uneven platform (stirrups) are the direct causes of back pain and injuries, the most common physical hindrance for polo players, regardless of the level of polo they play. These problems grow and expand exponentially every time they arise, firstly affecting the lumbar region, which leads to sciatic pain, or less frequently, crural neuralgia (front sciatica).
Polo is a sport that places much pressure on the spine. It is fundamental, therefore, that we train this area, since it supports the superior part of the body and is the core of both riding and striking movements.