Preventing Injuries in Swimming

While swimming is one of the best sports on your joints (compared to running and biking), there are still some precautionary exercises that you should do, along with warning signs of a potential injury to watch out for.  Nothing sets back your exercise routine more than an injury, and sitting it out on the sidelines is no fun at all so below are some of the more common swimming injuries and ways in which you can prevent these – especially to those of you who are new to the swimming world, or pool.

Swimmer’s Shoulder

One of the most common injuries in swimming is known as Swimmer’s shoulder.  This generally occurs because of the overuse of the shoulders. Swimmer’s shoulder could also be caused by an incorrect stroke technique, incorrect shoulder range of motion, prolonged shoulder intensive training, or the use of swim paddles and buoys – all of which can add stresses to the shoulders.

How to Prevent Swimmer’s Shoulder?

There are several ways to reduce your chance of experiencing this injury:

1)      Taking time to warm up, warm down and properly stretch after your swim session.

2)      Strengthening the muscles around your shoulders is another good preventative measure. Try to incorporate shoulder exercises at least 3 times a week does reduce your chances of injury (USA swimming does a great job showcasing various shoulder exercises).

3)      Learn proper stroke technique by getting help from a coach at a local swim club, or there are many videos on the web that serve as great technique resources.

4)      If your shoulder starts to feel pain, STOP.  If you continue swimming through the pain, at least put on a pair of fins to reduce the pressure placed on your shoulders.

5)      Icing your shoulder is also a good preventive measure. When you are finished working out and you recognize some discomfort, take an ice pack or bag of ice and hold on the area for about 20 minutes. This, along with some anti-inflammatory medication should reduce the swelling and tenderness to help make your next swimming workout more enjoyable.

Knee Injuries

Knees aren’t usually the first area of the body that come to mind when thinking of swimming, but knee injuries are very common swimmers who incorrectly breaststroke, or simply through overuse. An additional cause could be the overuse of improper fin kicking. Fins can be beneficial as they help to make swimming easier, but they can also add extra stress on your knees.

How to Prevent Knee Injuries?

The most important thing to keep in mind if you want prevent major knee injuries is to go by this following rule: If you feel any pain, then stop right away! Discontinue the stroke if you suffer any pain otherwise you run the risk of staying out of the pool for 2 – or more – months.  And who wants that? Just like anyone suffering from Swimmer’s Shoulder, icing your knee after a workout when you feel discomfort greatly aids in reducing the knee inflammation and makes it easier a lot for your next workout. You can also focus on strengthening the surrounding knee muscles by doing various quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf exercises on the ground.

Back/Neck Injuries

This type of injury as a result of swimming generally occurs because of overuse. In swimming, especially when swimming the butterfly stroke, a lot of strain can be placed on the back.  Hyperextension can also occur as this is due to incorrect stroke technique and jerky motions that usually plague beginner swimmers.

How to Prevent Back Injuries?

In swimming, having a strong core is key! Some preventative measures include back strengthening exercises as well as core work such as crunches, planks, and the ever more painful V-sit up will go a long way in building up a stronger core and as a result, back. Wearing a snorkel could also be useful as it removes the worry about breathing and putting the additional strain on your back.

Swimmer’s Ear

A lesser known injury in swimming is called Swimmer’s Ear, which is an inflammation, irritation, or infection of the outer ear due to water in the ear.  If you have Swimmer’s Ear, you can be out of the water for up to a week (or more) before being able to jump back into the water.  If you are “sidelined” but don’t want to give up swimming for that long, grab a kickboard and kick for your practice, making sure you are keeping your head out of the water as you exercise.

How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear?

Easy, wear earplugs! Many swimmers neglect this simple yet important preventative measure and end up suffering with an earache. Draining your ears of the water is also useful. Some swimmers will use special eardrops that dry up the excess water in your ears. One homeopathic remedy that many swimmers utilize is the mixture of vinegar and alcohol mixture or vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.  It’s easy and it works.

When it comes to health and wellness, prevention is always better than the cure – and swimming is no different!  Swimming is one of the best workouts you can do, but not if you’re injured.  So listen to what your body says and regardless of my recommendations above, always consult with your physician if you have any questions, concerns or pain that doesn’t go away.

Happy swimming!

Elisa Torres