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UCI Water Polo Study Makes Waves About Concussion Concerns

IRVINE ( — A new study out of UC Irvine is making waves when it comes to concussion concerns.

Professor Jim Hicks heads UCI's Exercise Medicine & Sport Sciences Initiative and is the father of three water polo players.

"The game is physical. So inadvertently, players may elbow someone in the head," Hicks said. "I've seen that the game is very physical as the balls flying around at pretty high speed, I thought what was happening."

So he is conducting the nation's first study on concussion risks in water polo.

First, he surveyed 1,500 players. Thirty-six percent revealed they had suffered concussions, while 60 percent of goalies who played college or higher said they also had concussions.

Researchers also are using dummies to test head impact and hope to use so-called 'accelerometers' inserted into their teams' caps.

Hicks said the accerlarometers "will calculate G forces to the head."

Nick Baba, whose two daughters are water polo players, runs the Irvine Kahuna Water Polo Club for kids.

He said safety is first priority. "I don't like when the game gets too physical. So I am able to do something about it."

So Baba has his players wear shock-absorbing caps and use inflatable goals for practice.

Aricka McSwain, whose son wants to play water polo, said some parents shy away from football for seemingly safer sports.

But everything has a risk. "Keep him safe with all the objects that he needs and all the equipment that he needs to prepare him," McSwain said. "

"The more we understand about the game, then we'll be able to inform the game about potential rule changes, possible changes in equipment," Hicks said.

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