Technique and muscle activity of the water polo eggbeater kick at different levels of fatigue
Oliveira, Nuno Miguel
The eggbeater kick is a skill used frequently in water polo and synchronized swimming to elevate the upper body for shooting, passing, blocking or compete with the opponent for position in the water. The hips, knees, and ankles are involved in creating favourable orientations of the feet so that propulsive forces in the vertical direction can be created. Literature reporting the technique of the eggbeater kick is scarce and limited to description of kinematics or muscle activity. The relationship of the kinematics to the demands on specific muscles has not been established. The purpose of this study was to analyze the kinematics and muscle activity of the water polo eggbeater kick in fatigued and unfatigued states to provide foundational knowledge on which training programs can be based. Twelve water polo players were tested executing the eggbeater kick in the vertical position while trying to maintain as high a position as possible for the duration of the test. The test was terminated when the player could not keep the top of the sternum marker above water. Anthropometric data were collected using the ‘eZone’ method. Three dimensional coordinates for the lower limbs and two dimensional coordinates of the above water top of the sternum marker were obtained. Surface electromyography recorded the muscle activity of the Tibialis Anterior, Rectus Femoris and Biceps Femoris muscles on both legs. Differences between fatigued and unfatigued conditions and between dominant and nondominant sides were tested using a two factor ANOVA with repeated measures. Differences within subjects were also investigated on a subject by subject basis with regard to muscle activity. Results indicated differences for kinematic and muscle activity variables between fatigue levels. The amplitude of anatomic angles and speed of the feet decreased with fatigue. Significant differences were found between dominant and non-dominant sides for the ankle motion. The non-dominant ankle was more inverted and adducted than the dominant ankle during the knee flexion phase of the cycle. The Rectus Femoris muscle had consistent patterns across subjects, while Tibialis Anterior and Biceps Femoris muscles were more subject specific in their responses. The Rectus Femoris and the Biceps Femoris have an agonist/antagonist relationship during knee flexion and extension. The Tibialis Anterior was active for long periods in the cycle while dorsiflexing and inverting the foot. As a consequence activity in these muscles decreased with fatigue. These findings point towards the necessity for players and coaches to address specific motions and muscles during the training of the eggbeater technique. Future work should focus on developing eggbeater kick training programs that address specific strength and flexibility.