What if there was a sport out there more brutal than that? A sport where not only do the participants have to contend with the rigors of a high level of physical contact, but there is also a very real risk of drowning?
Water Polo has been a sport at the Summer Olympics for over 60 years now and, when examined closely, is one of the world’s most brutal sports and easily the toughest sport played at the summer Olympics.
By no means is this a shot at sports like Rugby, Wrestling, Track and Field, Swimming, or Football (the world’s football), all tough sports in their own right, but when compared to the dangers associated with Water Polo, it’s clear that the sport is in a league of its own about brutality.
Among the many things Water Polo players do to each other, is clawing and scratching with their fingernails that they grow to such long lengths to inflict more pain during scrums. This practice got so far out of hand that referees now mandate rules in place to keep player’s fingernails and toenails from growing above a certain length. Still, it’s all too common to leave the game with deep scratches and wounds.
Players are also not above throwing punches, elbows, and chops while in the water, although these can get you kicked out of the game. That said, with all the splashing that takes place, thus obscuring the referee’s vision, players get away with these infractions so often that it too is commonplace in the game.
Finally, there’s the risk of drowning. Although these are professionally-trained swimmers who have been honing their craft their whole lives, players are not above deliberately dragging their opposition below the water to impede their progress.
When your sport presents the very real risk of drowning during play, you know you’re dealing with a game that’s tough to play indeed. In addition to that, a player’s level of conditioning has to be through the roof, as players must tread water for over 30 minutes while managing to avoid intense physical contact.
On the surface, Water Polo looks like a game of handball played in a swimming pool, but it’s far more than that. It’s an intensely physical sport with a high-level of basic skill that’s extremely tough on the body and poses very real physical risks.
It’s also exciting and fun as heck to watch, so maybe give Water Polo some consideration the next time the Summer Olympic Games are on and show some appreciation to these world-class athletes.