Shoulder pain in water polo: a systematic review of the literature

J Sci Med Sport. 2009 Jan;12(1):3-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2007.05.014. Epub 2007 Sep 21.


The main aim of this systematic review is to synthesize and critically evaluate literature on the incidence and clinical presentation of shoulder pain in water polo. A secondary aim is to examine the contributing factors to shoulder pain in water polo. Medline, Cinahl, Embase, Ausport, Ovid, Sports Discus, Pubmed and Google Scholar data bases were electronically searched. Data were extracted regarding research design, injuries, pain, incidence, interventions and therapy outcomes. Of an initial yield of 23 papers, 11 fulfilled the inclusion criteria and were categorized into studies on incidence, shoulder pain, shoulder mobility, strength and throwing injuries. Methodological limitations included sampling and measurement biases, inadequate internal validity of measurement tools, poor specification of testing protocols and limitations in statistical analysis. The review found a high incidence of shoulder pain in water polo. Although there was limited evidence regarding causation, the repeated action of throwing was identified as a contributing factor to shoulder pain. Future studies need to explore the relative contributions of hyper-mobility and muscle strength imbalance to shoulder pain in water polo.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / complications
  • Humans
  • Shoulder Joint / physiology
  • Shoulder Pain / epidemiology*
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology*
  • Swimming / injuries*