Wellness Wednesday: 5 Tips to Make Summer Swimming Pain and Injury Free


Loudoun County, Va. — Memorial Day has passed and pools are open, signaling the unofficial start for summer for a lot of folks. Many children and teens in this area are getting ready to start, if they haven’t already, swim team practices and meets. So it’s timely to talk about shoulder injuries and make sure you and your kids know how to prevent pain and injury so you can enjoy your summer.

Not too surprising, shoulder pain is the most frequent orthopedic injury among swimmers.

A recent study showed that 91% of elite swimmers age 13 to 25 reported at least one episode of shoulder pain. This is because swimming involves a lot of overuse of the shoulder joint.

Many young people sustain injuries to the shoulder because of joint laxity, rotator cuff weakness and failure to adhere to proper stroke techniques. This leads to unstable shoulder joints, and therefore, shoulder pain and tendonitis.

The shoulder consists of a ball and socket configuration. It’s the job of the rotator cuff to keep the ball centrally located inside the socket. When the rotator cuff is weak, the ball will rotate or glide incorrectly in the socket and cause pain.

The most common area for us to see shoulder pain in patients is on the front of the shoulder. That’s because the bicep tendon is being pinched when it travels in its groove.

Why does this happen? This usually occurs because the swimmer is using poor mechanics when performing the freestyle stroke as well as weakness in the other rotator cuff muscles that originate in the back of the shoulder.

If the rotator cuff is not properly strengthened in conjunction with performing repetitive motions like a swim stroke, there is also an increased risk of more serious shoulder injuries such as a labral tear (lining of the socket).

So what can you do to prevent this from happening?  

  1. Use proper stroke technique
  2. Perform core strengthening exercises and cross-training exercises during pre- and early season
  3. Perform consistent strengthening exercises for the rotator cuff muscles and exercises that focus on stability of the shoulder
  4. Maintain constant communication between the athlete, coach and healthcare professional to ensure chances of injury are lower
  5. STOP activity once pain becomes an issue and address it right away! Pushing through pain will only cause more problems and impact training


Note from our sponsor: Swimming competitively is physically demanding on the body. It is very important to not over train as this can cause significant rotator cuff muscle fatigue and lead to poor shoulder stability. Focus on strengthening those rotator cuff muscles and stretching out the front of the chest and shoulder so there is a good balance.  As always, if you experience pain or discomfort that does not go away after adequate rest or correction of stroke technique, CALL LOUDOUN SPORTS THERAPY CENTER at 703-450-4300. We can evaluate your shoulder and let you know what you need to do to decrease the pain, return to swimming, and prevent future injury!

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Loudoun Sports Therapy Center is a premier physical therapy clinic. We offer outpatient orthopedic and sports physical therapy as well as specialty programs.

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