4 Most Common Swimming Injuries
Summer, hot weather, cool pools and sparkling oceans – all these lead us to think about one thing: swimming. Swimming is not just a pleasant way to stay cool during the summer days, but it’s also a very efficient type of physical activity if you want to stay in shape, because it exercises all the muscle groups in the body.
If you have already taken up swimming or decide to do so on a long term basis, and not just as a summer activity, you should know that you may suffer in the future from a series of specific injuries related to swimming. The occurrence of these injuries is conditioned by several factors, such as the intensity of your training, your level of endurance and the swimming style you favour.
After discussing many types of injuries related to running on this blog, it is time to make justice for the swimmers, as well. So today we will give you the rundown of the four most common swimming injuries, as always with useful advice to treat and prevent them. Without further delay, here they are:
- Swimmer’s Shoulder
No matter what type of swimming style you prefer, you are using your arms a lot and making thousands of shoulder rotations during your swimming sessions. In time, a ligament in your shoulder, called the rotator cuff will wear out, become inflamed or even suffer from micro-tearing.
The main symptom of swimmer’s shoulder, or rotator cuff injury, is a sharp pain in your shoulder which increases as your arm rotates and extends above the shoulder in mid-stroke. This is not the kind of pain which you can ignore and the best way to approach this kind of injury is by applying the partial RICE method, involving complete rest from swimming, icing the painful area and, eventually, wearing a protective brace.
The best way of preventing the occurrence of swimmer’s shoulder is warming-up properly, never swimming when you feel fatigue, and including a series of stretching exercises in your routine to increase the rotator cuff strength and flexibility.
- Breaststroker’s Knee
This kind of injury is specifically conditioned by the style of swimming you generally favour. In the breaststroke style, the muscles around your knee contract violently and repeatedly to give you the extra momentum to cut through the water. Over time, the ligaments in your knee become inflamed and painful, leading to chronic pain.
The treatment of breaststroker’s knee involves lots of rest, icing and taking anti-inflammatory medication to manage the pain. To avoid re-occurrence, it is advised either to select another swimming style, or modify the breaststroke style by reducing the W shape in your kick and focusing on improving your hip movement technique.
- Neck Injury
Neck injuries are quite frequent in swimming due to two reasons: one is the fact that you always maintain your head in an elevated position above the water, and the second is that in several swimming styles (such as crawl, for instance) you permanently rotate your head to the right and left to breathe. The number one cause of these injuries is incorrect swimming technique.
Neck pains due to swimming tend to become chronic, so you need to improve your swimming technique if you want to avoid them. Here are a few helpful tips:
- In free style swimming, keep your head aligned with the spinal cord, look down towards the water and do not tilt back your head to see ahead;
- As you inhale, avoid rotating your head too much to one side or another.
You should also learn a series of neck stretching exercises and do them every day to increase the strength and flexibility of the muscles in your neck and to relieve stress and pain after swimming.
- Lower Back Injuries
Just like neck injuries, lower back injuries are most frequently due to poor swimming technique, especially in the butterfly and breaststroke styles. The treatment of these injuries involves the usual rest, icing and anti-inflammatory drugs and, in order to avoid a new occurrence, choosing a swimming style which you can do properly.
At the same time, do not forget to warm up before you start swimming and include a few hours per week of strength-building exercises in the gym.
As you can see, swimming is not all fun and relaxation, especially if you want to choose it as the main method of exercising and staying fit. However, if you respect the basic rules of preparing your body for physical effort, cooling down and building performance through small increments, you increase your chances of avoiding suffering these types of injuries.