woman swimmer holding shoulder

Swimming is a great low-impact workout that can be enjoyed by many who suffer from orthopedic conditions. However, if you’re a competitive swimmer or someone who swims a lot in your leisure time, you should know that a few common injuries can occur due to overuse of certain muscles, joints and body parts. In this post, we will discuss four of the most common injuries swimmers should be aware of.

1. Swimmer’s Shoulder

Swimmer’s shoulder is one of the most common swimming injuries. Rather than being a single type of injury, swimmer’s shoulder is actually an umbrella term that covers a range of shoulder injuries that sometimes occur among avid swimmers. Each condition usually results from fatigue or weakness of the rotator cuff as well as the muscles that surround the shoulder blade. Some of the shoulder issues included in the term swimmer’s shoulder are:

  • Rotator cuff impingement
  • Biceps tendinitis
  • Shoulder instability

2. Low back pain

Pain in the lower back is often due to incorrect technique. Some swimmers keep their head in a high position or sink their hips and legs, causing the back to over-arch to compensate. The back muscles and ligaments also undergo undue stress when swimmers lift their body out of the water with just their back instead of the overall body wave motion.

In addition, swimmers spend an increased amount of time with their backs in a hyper-extended position. While many have a higher than average flexibility in their joints, some have decreased core strength, which can lead to low back pain caused by spondylosis or lumbar disc disease.

3. Swimmer’s Knee

This injury is also known as breaststroke knee, as the trauma experienced is often incurred while a person is performing the breaststroke kick. The hyper-extension and momentum of the kick can cause the knee to rotate in a way that goes against its structural design, which puts unnecessary stress on the inner ligament and tendons along the inside of the knee.

4. Neck Injuries

Neck injuries are also more often the result of incorrect technique. Swimmers should keep their heads in line with their spines. However, many do not keep this position, or they over-rotate their heads while swimming. Another cause of neck injury among swimmers is not allowing the anterior neck muscles time to adapt and strengthen in relation to swimming increased distances.

Treatment for Common Swimming Injuries

Whether the injuries occur in a swimmer’s shoulder, lower back, neck or knee, treatment usually involves proper stretching and strengthening techniques as well as other exercises that can help prevent injury and increase stability.

Also, as with most injuries involving soft tissue, the initial treatment should focus on conservative techniques. RICE — rest, ice, compression and elevation — is a first measure that many athletes use to great effect when they’re recovering from an injury.

Other non-surgical treatment options include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and painful symptoms
  • Supportive taping, which both supports the injured soft tissue and reduces excessive swelling
  • Massage
  • Physical therapy

Contact OrthoBethesda for Persistent Painful Symptoms

If you experience a swimming injury accompanied by pain or other uncomfortable symptoms that continue to persist after attempted treatment, it’s time to make your appointment at OrthoBethesda. We’re proud to serve patients in Bethesda, MD, Arlington, VA, and beyond with diagnostic services and high-quality care.