Play it Safe
To avoid injuries in the Polo arena, it’s advisable to go in for training and get the posture right.
Polo is a fascinating sport. We witness fearless riders spurring their mounts at high speed and whacking away the ball with their mallets. How dangerous can it get? Every sport is physically tiresome and the players involved are prone to injuries. Polo, one of the world’s oldest sport and played in over 80 countries, is a unique sport as it combines the agility of the rider and the performance of the pony.
Imagine a situation where the balls are at a high speed, the mallets are swung haphazardly with the horses running at speed…does it not sound dangerous? Well, this is what happens at the polo arena where every rider’s goal is to win. His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Mateen, polo aficionado, says: “The risk factors involved and the complexities of the game are what fascinates me. For example, in your left hand, you have to control the wild animal below you, and in your right hand you have to control the mallet and have a very calm swing; in a sense, you have to be aggressive and calm at the same time. Unlike any other sport, where you have complete control over where you want to go, commanding a wild animal to do what you want is difficult. The challenge to arrive at that kind of control is what I love about Polo.”
Polo has always been a tough sport. Many popular sports have a huge barrier to entry, polo being a unique contact sport, has the highest barrier to entry. A minimum of two horses are required for the chukkas while approximately four are required for the polo match. A person playing polo with minimal proficiency requires a strong ground in horsemanship and efficient hand-eye coordination. It requires ample time and practice.
If you are planning to play polo, you must learn riding a small pony and to stand in the stirrups while spinning the dime. Riding a large saddle horse is easier than riding small polo ponies, as polo ponies are specially trained to have the ability to change directions swiftly. There are some tricks to reduce the risks, and you need to focus, as within a split second, you may even face failure.
Polo ponies tend to sustain common wounds, splints and tendon injuries at a match. The average rate of injuries is not different from other sports that involve horses. This is because the players and trainers tend to bandage the horses before the match to reduce the risk of injury and putt soothing poultices after the match.
Among polo players, there are two forms of injuries, traumatic or overuse. Traumatic injuries are due to collisions and falls. Everything related to normal lacerations to paralysis has happened on the field, which have made organizers and trainers, keep a strict eye on the safety and security of the riders and the horses. Fractures are common while playing an aggressive polo match, but if the injury is serious, it could impact the player’s life beyond the arena. Overuse injuries include the wear and tear that happens due to intense training. So, it is important for players to have the right stance while riding the pony, for being able to tackle posture imbalances. Says Sanjay Kapur: “Polo has a very different kind of risk. In every field, there are certain risks that you are willing to take, and certain that you don’t want to. In business, and in polo, you need to calculate the risks. As long as you play safe, and by the rules, you can mitigate the risks.”
Polo differs from other physical activities. It involves a human being and a horse to work as teammates. Though, the number of injuries in Polo are at par with other sports, the severity of the injuries is higher. The key to being a pro at the game is good posture and training.