Whether you’re a competitive or a recreational swimmer, chances are you’ve experienced swimmer’s shoulder to a certain degree. Despite its low-impact nature, swimming injuries can still occur due to overuse and poor stroke technique.
In swimming, the shoulder is the most commonly affected joint when it comes to injuries. Shoulder injuries may include inflammation of the biceps tendon, shoulder instability, and rotator cuff impingement. The rotator cuff tendon connects your shoulder muscles to the top of your arm. In rotator cuff impingement, the shoulder blade puts too much pressure into the tendon when the arm is lifted while swimming, particularly during freestyle.
The good news is that swimmer’s shoulder can be prevented! We have outlined a quick guide below.
- If you’re a unilateral breather (you consistently breathe on one side), practice bilateral breathing. Unilateral breathing makes your one shoulder work harder than the other side.
- Make sure you’re using the right size hand paddles. Hand paddles that are too large for your hands or those that do not have drainage holes will only place unnecessary strain on the shoulders during the pull-through phase of freestyle.
- Avoid overtraining. Continuing to use highly fatigued muscles will only increase the strain on your shoulders. If you seek to increase the frequency or mileage of your training, do it gradually.
- Have a professional or a coach assess and correct your stroke technique.
- Perform stretching exercises to loosen tight neck, chest, and anterior shoulder muscles. These exercises include the triceps stretch, doorway stretch, and axial extension.
If you’ve been swimming for a while as a professional or just for fitness, the Plancher Orthopedics team would like to hear from you! We can create a program that will help prevent swimmer’s shoulder and other swimming injuries. Call 212.876.5200 to set up an appointment today!