It's always been a conundrum amongst higher performance programs here in Australia but as the demands for waterpolo become higher and higher, its always baffling as to why we allow athletes to perform at this level without any form of medical clearance, for heart defects.
Waterpolo in Italy have mandatory screenings for all players that compete in the Seri A for instance.
This is how a defect in one of the greatest players of the modern game, Sandro Sukno was picked up by the medicos of the Pro Recco Club.
This situation unfortunately cost the great Sukno his waterpolo playing career, but it may just have saved his life at the same time.
One major open heart surgery later, he is still around to tell the story and thankfully giving back to waterpolo, as assistant coach of the Croatian National Team.
"After the heart surgery in the USA at the beginning of last year, which had successfully removed all of my troubles, and the recovery over the past year, contact with several of the most established experts from Croatia and abroad, and after thorough reviews and check-ups, it turned out that my total health condition was not optimal for continuing top-of-the-line athletic activities and that there was no 100% guarantee for the security of my health." said Sukno.
Yes, there are Institute Programs in Australia that have medicals each year, but these can only accomodate the select few.
As coaches on pool deck, it would certainly be peace of mind knowing that ALL athletes under your tuition have been cleared for any heart defects.
It certainly has been debated for may a year but the simple truth of the matter is, it's never been done before, as a mandatory requirement in Australia.
Why don't we start to follow, what a successful nation like Italy are doing in their waterpolo league ?..... for the athletes sake, coaches sake and the duty of a sport as a whole !
Photo: Sandro Sukno with the scar of the open heart surgery and JUG coach Vjekoslav Kobescak