Like any novice or professional athletes, dedicated swimmers of all levels are susceptible to certain injuries—particularly repetitive motion or overuse injuries. Conditions like rotator cuff impingement and other forms of swimmer’s shoulder, breaststroker’s knee, and tendinitis are common. The shoulders, neck, biceps, lower back, hips, knees, and ankles are the areas of swimmers’ bodies most likely to experience problems.
The type of strokes you perform most often can affect which issues are most likely and which body parts are most prone to problems, but any avid swimmer is at risk for repetitive use injuries.
Fortunately, there are simple ways to prevent common swimming injuries—or at least to greatly reduce your chances of developing them.
How to Protect Against Overuse Swimming Injuries
- Learn proper swim techniques for all strokes and focus on executing them properly at all times until it becomes second nature for you
- Keep your head aligned with your body and don’t crane it upward to look ahead while you’re swimming
- Don’t bend your knees while kicking
- Refrain from locking your ankles while swimming; keep them loose and flexible
- Stretch all the muscle groups before and after every swim, but don’t stretch “cold” muscles; walk around or do a other light warmup activity before your pre-swim stretching
- Regularly rotate the strokes and exercises you do
- Do dry-land exercises for swimmers during any off season when you’re not regularly in the water
- Build up the speed, distance, duration, and intensity your swim workouts gradually
- While there’s some truth to the “no pain, no gain” cliché, don’t push yourself too hard or too long, especially once you start feeling real discomfort
- Include at least one or two days of rest in your weekly swimming routine; unless you’re a competitive athlete, there’s no need to swim for exercise every day
- Take some time off if you start to experience unusual pain, tingling, or numbness in any of your muscles or joints; consult a doctor or trainer and ask about wrapping the affected area