If you’re a dedicated, competitive swimmer, then your season likely runs throughout the entire year. As the most popular low-impact fitness activity in the country, over one million Americans are involved in recreational or competitive swimming, and more than one third of them practice and compete all year long. Competitive swimming is definitively one of the best possible ways to stay fit all year, but it’s also important to realize it carries with it a risk for injury. Fortunately, these injuries can be treated by our Cleveland physical therapists in Shelby and Kings Mountain, NC.
Swimming is regarded as an excellent form of physical activity, primarily because it strengthens multiple regions of the body while also improving flexibility and endurance. The lack of impact makes it a safe choice for avoiding lower-body injuries that are more common with land-based exercises, but its intense involvement of upper-body muscles increases the chances for overuse injuries. The risk for these types injuries is even greater in elite swimmers, who may train more than five miles per day. This puts lots of strain on joints from extreme repetitive motions and can lead to pain or injury.
Overuse injuries occur gradually over time and primarily result from fatigue and failure to adhere to proper stroke techniques. Unsurprisingly, about 90% of complaints from swimmers relate to their shoulders, and the most common injury overall is called swimmer’s shoulder. More of a general term than a specific injury, swimmer’s shoulder describes any shoulder pain that swimmers experience, but it’s usually due to rotator cuff tendinitis, which is a group of muscles and tendons that surround and stabilize the shoulder. If left untreated, swimmer’s shoulder can go on to cause more pain and other injuries that can interfere with a swimmer’s overall performance.
Though the shoulder is by far the most common site for injury, some swimmers may also experience other types of injuries. Swimmers that primarily perform the breaststroke are prone to a breaststroker’s knee, which describes knee pain from injuries to ligaments or tendons. Foot and ankle issues, hip pain and even back pain may also occur for some swimmers in certain circumstances.
The best way to reduce injury risk is to ensure that you’re practicing and competing with the proper technique, but at Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates, we recommend the following for treating and preventing swimming-related injuries:
- Warm up and stretch—especially the shoulder—before every swim
- Avoid overuse injuries by mixing up strokes and spending less time practicing those that are causing pain; also be sure that sufficient rest is taken
- Practice good communication between coaches, swimmers and sports trainers
- Take some time off rather than pushing through pain, which can make it worse
- Our physical therapists can help with a training program that will likely include core-strengthening exercises, shoulder-strengthening exercises, hip-strengthening exercises and flexibility exercises to increase shoulder range of motion
Our physical therapists in Shelby and Kings Mountain, NC are experts in treating all types of sports-related injuries, including those experienced from swimming. For any pain you be feeling from swimming or any other activities, contact Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates at 704-471-0001 for more information or to schedule an appointment.