Anthropometric changes in elite male water polo players: survey in 1980 and 1995

Croat Med J. 2004 Apr;45(2):202-5.


Aim: To assess the differences in anthropometric parameters, body fat, body mass index (BMI), and body density induced by sport-specific morphological optimization (adaptation) between two generations (1980 and 1995) of male elite water polo players.

Methods: The survey included a total of 160 elite male water polo players, all members of the top clubs in Croatia. The 1980's generation consisted of 95 players (71.9% of target population) aged between 18 and 32 years, and the 1995's generation included 65 players (50% of target population) aged between 19 and 29 years. Trained and qualified anthropometrists performed the measurements under standardized experimental conditions and in accordance with the procedures described by the International Biological Program. They measured 23 anthropometric variables reflecting basic human body characteristics described by skeletal bone lengths (total leg length, total arm length, hand length, foot length, and height), breadths (hand at proximal phalanges, foot in metatarsal area, biacromial, biiliocristal, biepycondylar femur, biepycondyar humerus, and radio-ulnar wrist breadth), girths (chest, arm, forearm, thigh, and calf girth), skinfold thickness as a measure of subcutaneous adiposity (triceps, subscapular, axillary, calf, and abdominal skinfold thickness), and mass. Additionally, estimates of body mass index (BMI), body density, and percentage of body fat were calculated from the primary measures.

Results: Comparison between anthropometric measures of the two generations of water polo players revealed a positive trend in body skeletal measures and negative trend in body adiposity measures. Most noteworthy differences (d) were an increase in height (d=37.3 mm, p<or=0.001), decrease in estimated body fat (d=-1.65%, p<or=0.001) accompanied by higher body density (d=0.01, p<or=0.001), with no significant difference in body mass (d=-0.74 kg, p=0.518).

Conclusion: Anthropometric characteristics of elite water polo players have changed over the analyzed 15 years. Body shape changed in terms of greater height and more elongated limbs, with thinner waist and broader shoulders. Body mass remained unchanged. Muscle-to-fat mass ratio increased. The observed changes may be a consequence of population secular trend and sport morphological adaptation (optimization).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry / methods*
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Croatia
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Sports Medicine
  • Swimming / physiology*
  • Time Factors