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    Can You Get Injured While Swimming?

    Woman Swimming In Olympic Size Pool
    Swimming is often the workout that people use when recovering from injuries caused by other sports. It's also recommended for people who have limited mobility or age-related joint or muscle problems. So, you might be surprised to learn that people can and do become injured when swimming. 

    Even though swimming is a gentler form of exercise, it is still rigorous, and without proper form and adequate training, you can cause your body harm. Learn more about common swimming injuries and how you can prevent them. 

    Shoulder Injuries

    As you swim, you place immense pressure on your shoulder muscles and the shoulder joint as you constantly spin your arms forward to gain momentum. Injuries to the shoulder are the most common for swimmers simply because this is the area that experiences the greatest motion. 

    You might experience:
    • Tendonitis in the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that help to keep your shoulder in place. They become stressed with overhead arm movements, like when you swing your arms forward in a freestyle swim. 
    • Shoulder impingement. This happens when your larger shoulder and back muscles put pressure on the rotator cuff because of the consistent motion of swim strokes. You will have reduced mobility in the shoulder.
    • Cartilage tears. The stress on the shoulder can cause tears in the tissues of the shoulder joint. 
    You can prevent shoulder injuries during swimming by consistently weight training to help strengthen your shoulders. You should also focus on improving flexibility in the shoulder and neck area by completing stretches.

    Most importantly, you can prevent excess stress on your shoulders during swim workouts by improving your stroke technique. Not only will this improve your efficiency in the water, but it will reduce the load on your shoulders as you swim. 

    Neck Problems

    Swimmers might experience tightness in the neck. Turning the head side to side should be easy and painless, but swimmers might have a different experience. Usually, neck soreness is a result of poor breathing technique.

    When swimming, you don't lift your head up out of the water facing forward; you breathe from the side. Cracking your neck up creates stress along the spine and breaks up the motion of your stroke rhythm.

    However, you should not get into the habit of turning your neck to the side to get air. Instead, your whole body should turn to lift your head out of the water. Swimmers will need to get into the habit of switching the side that they breathe on; even if they are turning their head slightly, their neck muscles experience the motion equally. 

    Knee Soreness

    Isn't swimming the treatment for bad knees? Swimming is a low impact exercise, but your legs still have to work hard to propel your body forward through the water. If you lock your legs or if you kick too aggressively, you could experience pain because your knees are actually taking a beating as the water pushes against them. 

    Warm up before you get into the bulk of your workout, and avoid pushing off from the wall with force. Keep a slight bend in your knee to help protect it as you kick. Outside the pool, do squats and lunges to strengthen your knees.

    Also, your body should not be perfectly horizontal in the water but should angle slightly downward, so your legs aren't beating parallel to the water surface. This way, the buoyant force of the water against your knees is reduced.


    Besides stroke mechanics and proper technique, you can prevent injuries by following the rules of athleticism: get enough rest, follow a consistent but reasonable training schedule, hydrate, and cross train.

    You need strength training to develop your arm and core muscles. Your core strength will help you keep proper form in the water. Swimmers can forget that they are thirsty because the water masks symptoms of dehydration. Drink plenty of water before and after each workout.

    Take rest days, and do not overtrain. Give yourself easy workouts to recover from tougher days, long distances, or sprints.
    For more information about swimming injuries, contact us at Orthopaedic & Sports Specialists.