Swimming injuries are caused by various factors, including fatigue, overusing certain muscle groups and failure to keep within the safety guidelines when performing various stroke techniques. Swimmers need regular training to ensure flexibility and avoid trauma to muscles and joints. It is important to get attention once you feel pain to avoid deterioration. Here are some of the most common swimming injuries.
1. Swimmer’s Shoulder
Swimmer’s shoulder is the umbrella name for all the shoulder injuries experienced by swimmers. This is the most common type of swimming injury with a prevalence of over 41%. The pain is caused by impingement, where the muscles and tendons that pass through the shoulder space get irritated. Most swimmers feel the pain when they lift their arms in the swimming motion. The pain concentrates at the rotator cuff, a group of four stabilising muscles.
Muscle imbalance is the leading cause of the condition. During training, most swimmers strengthen some muscle groups, causing other muscle groups to overwork when moving the arm. Trainers can correct the problem with separate strengthening exercises for different muscles.
2. Low Back Pain
Some swimmers also complain of pain in the lower back. Competitive butterfly swimmers get the problem most often, followed by breaststroke swimmers. The major cause of the problem is weaknesses in the core muscles, stiffness in the shoulders and thoracic spine or a wrong swimming technique. In any of the above cases, the swimmer overcompensates and develops issues in their stroke, leading to pain.
3. Swimmer’s Knee
A swimmer’s knee or breaststroker’s knee is a pain around the inside or medial side of the knee when making a kick. The problem is caused by stress placed on the medial ligament during the propulsive kicks of the legs that power breaststroke. This leads to inflammation of the medial collateral ligament (MCL) on the inside of the knee. Swimmers with this condition also have a problem walking, jogging and doing weight exercises.
A variant of the condition occurs when the kneecap does not track properly due to muscle weaknesses around glutes and quads. Hamstring and ITB tightness can also cause the kneecap not to track properly.
What are the Risk Factors?
There are several factors that may predispose swimmers to getting injuries when swimming. Here are some of them:
• Restricted movement around affected joints
• An imbalance of muscles around a joint
• Repetitive shoulder movements, especially overhead movements
• Poor technique when swimming (especially the placement of hands and the pull-through direction)
• Unstable core
• Sudden increase in the amount of training, causing a muscle overload
• Inadequate warm-up before swimming and the lack of a cool down after swimming
Managing these Conditions
Early interventions such as sports physiotherapy may help to prevent the pain and improve the muscle function of the swimmer in question. These physio treatments are applied to the pain areas; however, other muscles may also need treating and exercising to prevent overcompensation. Successful recovery requires the athlete to follow the guidance of their physiotherapist. In addition, the swimmer may require rehabilitation of major muscle groups, such as rotator cuff and scapular muscles on the shoulder, hip and pelvic muscle due to knee joint pain and core strengthening.
If you have a swimming injury, give us a call on (02) 9144 1510 and book in your initial appointment now to see how Turramurra Sports and Spinal Physiotherapy can help you get back to full fitness. You can also request a copy of our FREE Swimming Injury Report here.