Swimming involves physical strength and movement of the entire body. This intense activity can lead to fatigue or injuries. However, the intensity and frequency of injuries are more prevalent among competitive than leisure swimmers. This sport also brings lifesaving skills, mental and emotional stress control, improved body posture, coordination, and balance, among other benefits.
If you’ve ever taken a swimming lesson you already know these benefits. Despite the measures swimmers take to prevent injuries, some can’t be avoided due to the physical nature of this sport. Let’s take a look at some common swimming injuries, their prevention, and treatment:
Swimmer’s shoulder is a common injury regular swimmers experience. It occurs when the shoulder muscle tissue and tendons tear, become inflamed, or irritated due to the repetitive rotation of the shoulder joints.
The symptoms of swimmer’s shoulder are sometimes mistaken for soreness. However, you know you have this condition when you feel pain that travels along the front or back of your shoulder and sets deep in your muscles. The pain worsens if you continue swimming.
Swimmer’s shoulder also has the following symptoms:
- Pain and limited motion in the affected shoulder
- Weakness and fatigue in shoulder muscles
- Change in your swimming stroke pattern
- Pain when you extend your arm overhead or lie on your shoulder
If the pain affects your mobility outside of swimming, seek medical help ASAP. However, there are measures you can take to prevent this injury.
It’s important to differentiate between normal muscle soreness or fatigue and injury. If your symptoms aren’t ordinary, consider changing intensity in distance and stroke mechanics. The sooner you address a potential problem, the better your chances of quicker recovery.
You can prevent swimmer’s shoulder by doing the following:
- Use proper swimming techniques.
- Improve shoulder mobility by performing strengthening exercises on land.
- Proper rest when your shoulder joint feels tired or overused.
These are some simple exercises and reminders that can help prevent injuries.
Treatment for swimmer’s shoulder rarely requires surgery and involves physical therapy. Knowing the affected muscles and tendons and the severity of the situation will enable efficient treatment.
Some of the treatments include the following:
- Applying a warm compress to the affected area to improve blood circulation
- Resting until the pain is gone before you resume swimming
- Physical therapy
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications
This shoulder injury takes about three to six months to heal, with severe cases taking longer.
The breaststroke is a relatively relaxed and comfortable stroke when swimming leisurely. But it can be physically demanding in competitive environments and result in swimmer’s knee. The leg movements with breaststroke can stress the inner side of the knee if done improperly. This can also strain the knee ligaments and cause pain, inflammation, and swelling, among other injuries.
It’s characterized by the following:
- Reduced flexibility of the knee
- Numbness or tingling of thigh muscles
- Instability in the upper leg and knees
Topical pain relief products can offer relief, but you need a medical professional to check your injury.
As with any injury, prevention is key. Here are the best ways to prevent swimmer’s knee injuries:
- Correcting swimming techniques
- Varying routine activities by practicing other strokes
- Warming up properly and strengthening muscles with dryland exercises
By switching up your training routine, you can reduce stress on your knees.
As a swimmer, when you feel abnormal knee pain, don’t work through the pain. Physical therapy to reduce inflammation and restore movement is beneficial as you recover from swimmer’s knee. You may also need the following to aid in your recovery:
- Periods of rest to allow the affected tissue time to repair
- Strengthening, stretching, and conditioning exercises
- Medication to relieve pain
Severe conditions sometimes call for supportive straps and braces.
A swimmer’s neck is susceptible to significant stress, especially during competitions or high-intensity training. Common injuries occur when a swimmer contorts their neck while keeping their heads above water to breathe in breaststrokes or freestyle strokes.
You can reduce the possibility of a neck injury by practicing the following:
- Align your head with your body when swimming.
- Rotate your entire towards the side you’re breathing on.
- Alternate sides when breathing to prevent stressing one side of your neck.
- Practicing proper stroke techniques.
Just like most swimming injuries, prevention requires practicing proper stroke mechanics to lessen chances of injuries.
Here are some ways to help you in your recovery:
- A neck brace may be necessary for more serious injuries.
- Perform cross-training and neck strengthening exercises.
- Get enough rest.
Following this regimen may help speed up your recovery. As always, consult your physician first.
Lower Back Pain
The hyper-extended position the body takes when swimming, especially during the butterfly, breaststroke, and crawl, puts a strain on the lower back. This can lead to tightness and muscle imbalances in the lower back, resulting in discomfort and pain.
Follow these steps to help prevent lower back injuries:
- Use water goggles to reduce incorrect head movements when preventing water from entering your eyes.
- Roll your body sideways and keep your chin in when taking breaths during crawls.
- Perform front strokes properly maintaining the proper posture.
- Take frequent breaks and strengthen your core to mitigate injury.
Preventing swimming injuries focuses on getting the technique right. As you master your strokes, you’ll be less prone to injuries.
Pool therapy is one of the best ways to deal with a swimmer’s lower back pain. Walking from one side of the pool to the other in waist-deep water can benefit your back. Other treatments include stretching and strengthening your core muscles.
Swimmer’s shoulder, swimmer’s knee, neck injuries, and lower back pain are all common injuries among swimmers. Therefore, some experts advise that you must regulate your distance, training intensity, and frequency when you feel pain.
While applying proper stroke techniques help correct some conditions, some injuries require more specialized therapy and treatment. As a swimmer, knowing how to differentiate between fatigue and injury helps you deal with injuries promptly.
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