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How to Fix 4 Common Swimming Injuries

2016/7/21 10:45:58

With upwards of a million people swimming for fitness and recreation each year, there are bound to be a few injuries that come along with the sport.

Although swimming doesn't breed problems the way high-impact sports do, it can cause its own set of injury issues.

Poor stroke mechanics and overtraining tend to be the main causes of the most common swimming injuries. "Listen to your coach's instructions on mechanics," says Marie-Christine Leisz, the medical director of the Endurance Sports Injury Clinic through Allina Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis. "Over time you will develop the kinesthetic awareness that will tell you where your body is in space."

More: 3 New Rules of Swim Training

As you hone your form and training plan, consider the following injuries, treatments and prevention tips to keep you from being sidelined.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator cuff issues abound when it comes to swimmers.

"Shoulder injuries are the most common injury among swimmers," Leisz says. "It is a repetitive injury usually due to poor stroke mechanics."

Rotator cuff injuries are characterized by an inflammation and a sharp pain in the shoulder that worsens as the arm extends over the shoulder mid-stroke.

More: 3 Corrective Shoulder Exercises


  • Ice your shoulder for 10 minutes twice daily, especially following activity;
  • Do a few days of dryland cardio training to allow the inflamed tendons to heal.


  • Avoid training with tired muscles;
  • Avoid sudden increases in training volume or intensity;
  • Limit use of a kick board to avoid straining the shoulder muscles;
  • Check with a coach on your stroke form to determine if imperfections may lead to shoulder problems.

More: 10 Swimming Tips for Beginners

Lower Back Pain

Lower back injuries, which are oftentimes associated with the butterfly stroke,  keep many swimmers out of the water. As swimmers rise out of the water and arch their backs during the butterfly, pressure is put on the lumbar vertebrae. Soreness in the lower back, stiffness and swelling usually accompany this issue.

More: How Yoga Can Help your Lower Back Pain


  • Rest for two to three days and limit the amount of training you devote to the butterfly stroke;
  • Heat the affected area to help the lower back muscles relax.


  • Strengthen back muscles to take pressure off the spine by completing squat and dead lift exercises;
  • Keep your back flexible by stretching after every workout

Breast Stroke Swimmer's Knee

Creating pain on the inner side of the knee, breast stroke knee is usually a result of poor technique.

"With breast stroke you do the whip kick, so as you internally rotate your hips with a bent knee and hips, you turn your feet out, which can be hard on the medial knee," Leisz says.

More: Avoiding Shoulder Swimming Injuries

Pain increases as you continue to do the whip kick and will generally be tender and sometimes swollen following exercise.


  • Switch to other strokes allowing the major knee ligaments to heal;
  • Ice the medial knee for 10 minutes twice daily, especially following exercise.


  • Be sure to warm up and cool down before and after workouts;
  • Maintain variety in the different strokes you practice in order to avoid the repetitive stress to the same soft tissues;
  • Avoid excessive rotation of the hips in training.

Neck Injuries

The high head position required during swimming can cause a host of issues for recreational and competitive swimmers alike. Whether you are lifting your head out of the water or rotating it sideways to take a breath, these repetitive motions can lead to chronic pain.


  • Take several days out of the pool and substitute with cardio dryland training;
  • Stretch your neck and shoulders several times a day to loosen the surrounding musculature.


  • Strengthen the neck muscles by completing neck extension and shoulder roll exercises;
  • Work on your form during flip turns to avoid over-extension.

More: Exercises to Prevent Swimmer's Shoulder

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