Swimming a Lot This Summer? Avoid These Common Injuries.
Summer swim teams are popular in our area. Although swimming is a low-impact, non-contact sport, that doesn’t mean swimmers get a pass from injury. Their injuries tend to result from training too much, from some muscles being strong and others weak as a result of repeating the same stroke a lot, and from using faulty stroke techniques.
The most common of these is called “swimmer’s shoulder,” and is an injury to the tendons at that joint. It happens when a swimmer repeatedly raises the arm up overhead as in a crawl stroke, making some shoulder muscles strong and leaving others weak. This causes the shoulder to move in a way that pinches tendons in the joint when the arm is raised.
How can this problem be avoided?
Follow a training schedule that starts light and builds up gradually, so that you don’t hurt your muscles by doing too much too soon. It’s also important to keep a good balance in strength between the muscles you use when swimming and those you don’t. That means strengthening your rotator cuff muscles and the muscles around your shoulder blades outside the pool. A therapist can teach those to you.
If you find that you’re having pain from swimming, don’t try to power through it. Taking some time off from the swim stroke that’s causing the problem speeds recovery. You can still keep in shape, but do it outside the pool, such as by riding a stationary bike. When you do swim, get your coach to make sure your technique is good, so that you’re not making things worse with the way you move your body in the water. Using an ice pack on your shoulders for 10 minutes after your workout can help too
There are other swim injuries, of course. Those who do the breast stroke tend to get knee pain. Correct your kicking technique if that is the problem. Then strengthen thigh and hip muscles. Swimmers get back problems too. Practicing a good program of core strengthening outside the water will help with that. Again, a therapist can guide you in those exercises.
Keys to avoiding injuries as a swimmer:
- Increase your workouts gradually and don’t train too much.
- Strengthen other muscles groups outside the pool, such as rotator cuff, shoulder blade, hip, thigh and core muscles.
- Use good stroke techniques.
- Take time off from the pool if you need to, training with a different sport to maintain your conditioning.
About the Author
Donna Salisbury, PT, is a physical therapist at the Cone Health Outpatient Cancer Rehabilitation