Swimming Injuries

Helpful Facts About Swimming Injuries

Swimming injuries are a whole lot more common than you might think.  Sure, most people think of swimming as more of a leisurely sport or occasional relaxation time, but for the aggressive and competitive individuals that do more than simply float around the pool on their back and offer a kick from time to time, injuries are often inevitable.

Swimming is usually thought of as being an ideal form of exercise since it is rumored to be injury-free.  Traditionally, physical problems only occur as a result of serious land training that is combined with competitive water training.  This kind of vigorous training leads to breast-stroke knee and swimmer's shoulder.  These terms are basically just generalized descriptions of the movement that is causing the injury.

Swimmer's Shoulder

Swimmer's shoulder, also referred to as shoulder impingement or rotators cuff tendonitis, is one of the most common types of swimming injuries that can occur in novice and veteran athletes.  This painful injury can occur in swimmers because of basically two different reasons.

  1. When extending your arm vertically at your shoulder there is an adduction of the arm that is blocked.
  2. When extending your arm out in front of you at the shoulder, the motion is blocked to the right or left.

The pain usually occurs between 80 and 110 degrees in the arc.  If you can barely apply any strength against the movement, there is a good chance that your rotator cuff has a tear.  This type of trauma is usually accompanied by shoulder impingement.  Treatment usually involves rest as well as assessing any faults that contributed to the injury.

Arthritis Of The Acromioclavicular Joint

Swimming injuries can also include arthritis in the shoulder.  The area where your scapula and clavicle meet can develop arthritic changes, especially if you are also participating in resistance weight training.  Since swimming requires a great deal of repetitive movements, this joint is easily stressed.

Rest is usually the main form of treatment but if symptoms persist or worsen, anti-inflammatory drugs may be needed along with hot and cold therapy.  Also, for severe cases, a cortisone shot may be required to alleviate pain.

Arthritis Of The Glenohumeral Joint

The glenohumeral joint is found where the humerus and glenoid cavity meet.  This is one of the more rare swimming injuries that is usually only seen in professionals or those that have been swimming for an extremely long time.

Massive arthritic destruction of this area may require joint fusion or prosthetic joint replacement.  Either treatment method will result in the swimmer having to retire from competition.

Breast-Stroke Swimmer's Knee

The last of the most common swimming injuries is the breast-stroke swimmer's knee.  It occurs because of what is called, the whip kick.  This movement places a great amount of pressure on the outside of your knee.  As a result, a sprain of major knee ligaments usually occurs.

It is important to take a break if you feel substantial pain in the outer portion of your knee.  To prevent future injuries, you must stretch thoroughly prior to swimming and vary your workout.  Devoting an abundance of time to your breast-stroke every time you are in the water will exhaust your knees and could result in retiring you out of the water completely for an extended period of time.

Why So Many Shoulder Injuries?

The shoulders are the concentration of the majority of swimming injuries for a number of different reasons.  The upper body of swimmers provides the propulsive force that moves them through the water.  The shoulder joint has to withstand overuse syndromes.  In shoulders that are unstable, the external rotators have to do extra work which leads to fatigue, inflammation and overload.