Swimming Injury Prevention

Swimming is a popular sport all around the world, with approximately 28 million people aged six years and older swimming for fitness in the united states alone! However, it is common knowledge that acute injury rates in swimming are lower than other sports such as football and basketball. Despite this, swimming is heavily associated with injuries that are predominantly chronic in nature.

This plan runs through the most effective strategies to reduce injury risk in swimmers. If you implement and follow these correctly, you WILL also see dramatic improvements in the way you train every day!  

Stroke Technique

Swimming often involves hyper-extensive movements, placing significant demands on joints and muscles, which can often lead to joint problems and musculoskeletal injuries. To address this,  I recommend that coaches and swimmers maintain a strong focus on biomechanical technique. Swimmers and coaches who ensure that stroke technique is an integral part of their training programmes are best placed to identify the earliest signs of injury. Disregarding these warning signs can lead to more serious injuries, often with longer recovery times!

Most Common Swimming Injuries

• Shoulder impingement syndrome ‘swimmers shoulder’

• Rotator cuff tendonitis or tears

• Breaststrokers’ knee (tendons and ligaments along the inside of the knee)

• Tears in the cartilage around the shoulder socket

• Neck and low back pain

• Biceptendonitis (painful inflammation of the bicep tendon)

Essential Swim Training Equipment

A major factor to reduce injury risk in swimmers is by increasing the awareness of body position through bio-feedback. Using flotation devices such as fins, kickboards and pull buoys help maintain proper form when swimming. Training equipment also increases buoyancy and time in the water with fins increasing the ability to streamline strokes. This reduces drag and improves force production, which increases efficiency, ultimately placing less stress on the athlete in comparison to performing incorrect technique.

"If you require any expert tips, our DUO Swim app is the perfect remote source for coaching."

There are also number of specific exercises and drills that can be performed to improve stroke technique. If you require any expert tips, our DUO Swim app is the perfect remote source for coaching, where our instructional videos will guide you through swim drills and stroke technique. You can also make use of the video analysis feedback option where individual tips and critique is given for your improvement - the perfect one-to-one coaching if you ask me!

Training Load

As previously discussed, training load is an important injury risk factor. Training more than four times a week increases the risk fourfold for shoulder overuse injuries. To address this, monitoring and surveillance of training volume, including intensity and duration will minimise overuse injuries and identify athletes at risk. When designing training programmes, it is important that the principles of training including progression and specificity are adhered to. The DUO Swim app provides users with customized training plans and daily workouts designed by Olympic standard coaches. The workouts are structured to support swimmers of all abilities to achieve their individual goals, whilst reducing the risk of injury. Go check them out, after finishing the blog of course!

Swimmers can cover distances ranging from 3km per week at age group level, to more than 110km per week at elite level. Irrespective of different strokes, it is not uncommon for swimmers to complete up to 2500 arm rotations per session.Maintaining this high training load repetitively over time can predispose swimmers to musculoskeletal injuries of the upper limb, knee, and spine.

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Muscle Imbalances

Imbalances in strength and flexibility can negatively affect swimming performance by reducing force production capacity and decreasing range of motion, ultimately contributing to shoulder, knee and spinal problems. However, effective training and rehabilitation exercises can correct identified imbalances. Strength and conditioning is now becoming an integral part of many training plans for swimmers, with core strength representing an important component of injury prevention. A swimmer’s core should be strong and engaged when swimming allowing the arm action and kick to be fluid and relaxed. This strong stable core enhances the ability to streamline strokes, allowing the body to drive forwards efficiently with greater technique.

As previously mentioned, swimming injuries are chronic in nature due to high training load, with shoulder injuries the most common. A combination of internal and external rotator stretches, alongside TheraBand exercises, can help improve strength and endurance whilst reducing the risk of shoulder impingement injury. It is also well documented that stretching is associated with a fivefold reduced risk of overuse injuries, and that swimmers should stretch following any swimming or dry-land training session to aid recovery. However, flexibility can also cause muscle imbalances, therefore a proper dynamic warm up sequence to prepare you for a full range of motion before swim training is encouraged. Dynamic warm ups raise your muscle temperature and prepares the muscles in a sport specific way. This can help reduce the risk of injury, while over time improving your performance, due to the increased range of movements around the joints.

Let’s Finish This Up!

Thank you for making it through my step-by-step guide on the most effective strategies to reduce injury risk in swimmers. Strong evidence exists that the management of training load and also ensuring athletes possess sufficient muscle strength, flexibility and endurance, can reduce fatigue and prevent injuries. What is clear is that swimmers must strive to continually perfect their biomechanical technique. For a sport which has to balance many competing demands, swimmers should put in place strategies to minimise their risk of injury, as it is not conducive towards success!