Headgear worn by water polo players is necessary for protection and identification. But why are the water polo caps pointed? The form of the cap, which resembles a cone, meshes with functionality to help protect the athlete.
Water polo is an intense contact sport. A cross between swimming and handball, players say that it is an intense physical activity that presents unique challenges.
Between swimming, lunging for the ball, and throwing the ball, balls can hit players hard. Headgear protects from thrown balls and accidental elbow or fin strikes.
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Water polo balls are 14-16 ounces, but an athlete could get hurt if hit in the head. The cap is made of thick material that protects the player’s head in case of collision or impact. Players often jostle other athletes as they lunge for the ball or accidentally get hit in the head with the ball.
A 2019 study conducted by researchers from the University of California, Irvine, concluded that there is “a risk of head impacts” to collegiate athletes. James Hicks, chair of UCI’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and co-author of the study, said that the study quantifies the problem and, with further research, the rules for protective headgear could be impacted to improve the safety of water polo players.
Water polo regulations require players to wear caps for protection.
Caps consist of materials developed to help with water flow dynamics and protection. Manufacturers differ on the materials the swim caps are made out of. For example, Hammerhead swim caps consist of a patented honeycomb-like material that helps protect swimmers.
According to the Hammerhead website, in 2013, David Burns was teaching a swim clinic to kids. David’s daughter Madeline hit her head at the finish. Burns created the HIT material to protect Madeline’s head and other athletes.
If a player is hit or impacted, the hit could cause an eardrum to rupture, sidelining the athlete until repaired.
According to Dr. David Wang from the New York City Hospital for Specialized Surgery, the eardrums heal eventually on their own, but it takes a few weeks, and the player has to stay out of the pool until it is healed.
The pointed shape helps protect a player’s head and ears (though they don’t wear goggles for other reasons). The cap holds hair in place, including keeping stray hairs out of the pool and keeping the hair out of the face, which protects the player’s field of vision.
Plastic domes surround the ear guards, keeping the inserts in place. The mesh covering of the ear guards reduces the amount of water in the ear during play, allowing it to drain out.
At the bottom of the pointed cap are ties that players knot under the chin. These ties help the player keep the cap securely in place and give the player more stability.
The cap’s design goes beyond function to help separate teams by color and identify individual players by number and name.
Athletes spend most of their time underwater, so identifying individuals can be tricky. The different colors of the caps help players identify teammates. The water polo cap serves as a player’s jersey, identifying players by name and number.
Teams are differentiated by the colors of the caps they wear. For example, home teams wear white or light-colored caps, while away teams wear dark-colored ones. Goalkeepers for both teams wear red ones.
Each player has a number on the side of the cap and a name so coaches can identify them. Goalkeepers have the number 1 on red caps. Alternate goalkeepers wear red caps but are separated from the goalkeepers by 1-A or a similar number.
Here are the most common questions about polo caps, and their answers.
How do you buy water polo caps?
Teams often purchase caps as part of the team with logos. If an individual wants to buy a cap, they can do so as part of the team or individually. There are many ways to customize caps, including color, style, and design.
What should I consider when buying water polo caps?
There are many details to consider, such as reinforced seams, reinforced chin straps, and the materials the caps are made from. Caps are made from various materials, most often a form-fitting nylon fabric that conforms to the head.
What makes water polo caps so different?
The water polo caps are designed for aerodynamics and ergonomics (same as swimsuits). The shape and form of the cap help contain the player’s hair and allow for faster moves.
Where can I learn more about water polo and water polo caps?
Water polo is played all around the world both recreationally and competitively. The United States Olympic Committee oversees USA Water Polo. USA Water Polo is a good resource for athletes and parents to learn more about the body of the sport, including potential injuries to the head, like concussions. Underwater football, hockey, and rugby athletes also wear protective caps.
Why are water polo hats pointy?
The pointy shape of water polo hats is due to their clever design, which helps prevent ear ruptures. According to Aram Eidipour, head coach of Barnet Water Polo Club, water polo balls may not be the heaviest, but they can still cause pain if they hit you. Since eardrums are sensitive, the cap’s clever design is intended to protect them from ruptures.