With the hot summer weather and more people taking to the water to cool off, this campaign deals with swimming injuries.
Swimming is a very popular sport. We swim in the sea, pools, lakes, streams, rivers and even ponds. And given 70% of the Earth’s surface is water, we’re not short of opportunities!
And while swimming is considered a ‘low-impact’ sport, more than 84% of regular swimmers suffer from some type of overuse type injury caused by swimming. Our focus in our previous blog dealt with performance enhancement in divers, but I have helped competitive swimmers deal with injuries and helping with their stroke techniques.
The main joint injured is the shoulder.
This is because of the high repetition of joint movement and forceful nature of the muscles pulling the joint through its full range of motion against water resistance.
As 50-90% of the power generated to propel the body forward comes from the shoulders, you can see why they are the most frequently injured joint in this sport.
Swimming also puts stress on other joints:
- back – to hold you level in the water
- neck – when raising your head out of the water to breathe
- knees – twisting motion in breaststroke.
So, despite it seeming to be a low-impact sport, swimming actually carries a surprisingly high risk of injury.
Let’s take a look at those injuries, why they happen and what you can do about them.
The injuries related to swimming generally stem from two sources:
- Muscle imbalances
- Stroke technique issues
Our everyday posture, particularly if a lot of time is spent sitting at desk or in a car, creates many muscle imbalances. These include short hamstrings and tight muscles around the neck, back and shoulders. We unconsciously adopt a curved forward upper back, round shoulders and chin poke. All of which add to shoulder problems in swimmers and cause neck pain too.
Poor posture is the biggest culprit of short tight trapezius and pectoral muscles and weak anterior (front) neck and upper back muscles. These muscles can be painful and develop trigger points, commonly referring pain and causing headaches. Tight muscles may also limit your neck movements. Good posture ensures good alignment of the joints and ligaments, which allows for optimal contraction of your muscles and off-loading underlying structures.
Injuries differ depending on stroke and individual shortcomings.
A wide, swinging arm is a common issue. Recovery from this requires excessive, internal rotation which causes impingement on the joint.
Thumb in first with hand entry. Again, this causes excessive internal rotation in the shoulder and concomitant impingement and a dropped elbow or straight arm pull through, which creates a long lever and overloads the shoulder.
In our set of resources, which you can access at this link ‘Sink or Swim’, we’ve put together a Stroke Technique Cheat Sheet. This looks at each injury area, identifies key stroke issues, and offers solutions to the problem.
Despite injuries, the bottom line is that the benefits of swimming; whether for general fitness, the desire to win competitions, or to find your quiet place for stress relief; far outweigh the risk of injury.
And with this in mind, we’ve put together a set of resources to help you manage, or better yet prevent, swimming injuries altogether.
These resources include
- Stroke Technique and Injury Cheat Sheet
- Common Swimming Injuries Cheat Sheet
- Sink or Swim? Treating and Preventing Swimming Injuries
- Swimmer’s Shoulder – Advice and Exercise Rehabilitation Leaflet
- Breaststroker’s Knee – Advice and Exercise Rehabilitation Leaflet
- Muscle Cramp in Swimmers – Advice Leaflet
- Back Pain in Swimmers – Advice and Exercise Leaflets
- Neck Pain in Swimmers – Advice and Exercise Leaflet
These resources are packed with practical tips and advice, along with exercise leaflets that combine to help you swimming happily, healthily and injury free into the future.
You can download the all the resources here from our Sink or Swim campaign.