Much like any other sport, swimming is an activity that can result in unpleasant injuries, especially in cases of competitive and professional swimmers. Although swimming is a fantastic for sport injury rehabilitation and is commonly known as a safer way to exercise due to low rates of concussion and other major injuries, bodily damages such repetitive strains and micro-trauma injuries can be a common occurrence.
The most frequently injured body parts caused by swimming are;
The shoulder is an extremely vulnerable joint for swimmers as swimming requires excessive shoulder motions, therefore as the number strokes increases, so does the stress caused to the shoulder. The most common type of shoulder injury includes rotator cuff impingement which is caused by pressure on the rotator cuff from part of the shoulder blade or scapula as the arm is lifted.
Swimmers may also suffer from shoulder instability, which is where the structure surrounding the shoulder joint does not work to maintain the ball within its socket – this is a result of weariness and weakness of the rotator cuff and muscles surrounding the shoulder blade.
Such injuries can occur as a result of overuse or improper technique, which is why it’s important for swimmers to make sure they avoid any movements which can cause them discomfort. They should also regularly exercise the shoulder outside of the pool, as strengthening and stretching the muscles can help to build up flexibility and resistance.
Swim related knee injuries are also very common and can be caused during breaststroke kicking as this particular movement places high level of stress to the knee, which can easily damage the tendons and ligaments. This is why recreational breast stroke swimmers often suffer from pain in their knee, a condition which is also known as 'breast stroker's knee'. Breast stroker's knee can occur for a variety of reasons such as: over-training, poor technique and insufficient warm ups. Alternating swimming strokes can help individuals avoid damaging their knees, along with doing stretching exercises before a swim session, as this is great way to strengthen hamstrings and quadriceps.
Other knee pain includes pain in the front of the knee, which is most likely to be a patellar tendon irritation caused from bending the knee excessively during movements such as the down kick or flutter kick.
Swimming is highly beneficial for individuals looking to relieve symptoms of back pain which is ironic because research shows a majority of swimmers have experienced back pain as a result of swimming. This is due to twisting motions during movements such as flip turns and butterfly, these techniques can cause irritation to the spinal joints, leading to troublesome back pains.
Lower back pain can also occur as a result of the back being hyper-extended or stretched for long periods of time during movements such as the breast stroke. To prevent this from happening, swimmers must ensure they practise the correct technique and avoid any awkward or unnatural movements.
The hip is also at risk of becoming injured during a swim and is becoming an increasingly common problem amongst regular swimmers. Movements such as the wide breaststroke kick is a risk for hip adductor injury and factors such as improper strength and timing can cause an individuals pelvis and hips to lie in an awkward position – increasing joint pressure and resulting in severe discomfort.
In order to avoid further hip pain, it's important to avoid causing further strain to the area by staying away from breaststroke training until the injury has been given a chance to heal and the pain has gone away.
To ensure you minimise your risk of any injuries when swimming, remember to warm up properly beforehand, and switch up your strokes.