Why Do Water Polo Players Wear Caps

In 2019, USA Water Polo had enough members on board to pass the 50,000-member milestone. This was one small instance that helps define the growing popularity of water polo as it is one of the nation’s fastest-growing sports

With the growing popularity of water polo in terms of participation and competitive play, the audience for this venue has grown substantially as well. If you’re a new fan to the sport of water polo, you’re probably curious as to why do water polo players wear caps while they compete.

Water Polo is well represented outside of the United States as well and the best part is, that there is virtually no ceiling for how far the sport has the potential to grow. Hundreds of competitions and programs are active in several states with the sport also gaining a substantial foothold at the collegiate level. 

two opposing water polo players going for the ball

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Why Do Water Polo Players Wear Caps?

Playing water polo isn’t like football or basketball, where everyone is represented with jersey logos, numbers, and names. In water polo, the player is mostly submersed throughout the game and the logical way to help players identify both their teammates and opponents is to use caps.

There is also another reason for the caps, and arguably more important, and that reason is safety. If you pay close attention to the caps, you will see that it almost looks like the players are wearing a large pair of headphones underneath. 

It’s actually an extra, protective layer of padding that protects the player’s ears, both from water and from getting hit in the ear with the ball. In fact, ear injuries are one of the most common injuries incurred while playing water polo.

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underwater shot of water polo player going for the ball

Water Polo Cap Purpose

A water polo cap represents several things and it’s certainly not on a player’s head for entertainment or artistic purposes. 

  • It represents the team’s colors and sometimes nationality
  • A water polo cap presents the teammate’s number
  • It keeps water out of the ear canal
  • Protects the ear canal from a ruptured eardrum
  • Darker and brighter colors represent the home and away teams

A ruptured eardrum is more common than you would think with water polo players. It’s caused by the presence of water and air within the ear canal that undergoes a sudden and immense pressure change, which is caused by getting struck, directly in the ear, by the ball.

Why Is The Water Polo Goalie Cap Different?

The water polo goalie’s cap is different in terms of color but not in terms of construction or capabilities. A goalie’s cap protects the goalie’s ears and the sides of the head in the exact same way that it protects everyone else in the water. 

water polo goalkeeper defending the goal from incoming ball

The difference in the water polo goalie cap is the color. Goalies have to wear ‘quartered red’ caps and it’s simply a visual representation of who the goalie is. Playing any kind of water sport can be massively confusing, especially if your eyes are submerging and surfacing rapidly or there is water in the player’s eyes.

It helps all of the players, regardless of which side they are on, identify the opposing team’s goalies and your own team’s goalies. The water polo goalie’s cap is typically numbered 1 and if a substitute goalie enters the game, the cap will have a ‘1-A’ on the sides instead. 

Water Polo Cap Ear Protection

There isn’t a great level of technology involved in water polo caps. It is essentially a plastic ear covering with a number of holes in it. The holes keep pressure from building up inside the cup and allow players to hear each other and continue to communicate. 

The one thing that it does better than any other, however, is to protect the eardrums from rupturing as the result of a hard blow from the ball. It’s not the perfect defense mechanism in the world—nothing is—but it provides a considerably higher level of protection than nothing at all.

Courtesy Olympics Aquatics on Youtube.

All Things Considered

Water polo sports caps serve several purposes and they do so pretty well. It makes sense that they are used to identify your team, your opponent, individual players, and goalies while also providing a higher level of protection from water injuries incurred while playing

While there may be subtle changes to design features in future years, water polo caps will probably remain similar to the way they are today.

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