Swimming Successfully This Summer

Cooling down after a summer 2022 run in beautiful Lakes Park. Photo Courtesy of Charly Caldwell II.

Summer… Beaches… Picnic’s… There are many things that make a quintessential summer but swimming in the beautiful gulf waters is top of my list.

Not only does swimming cool you down, but it also exercises nearly every muscle in your body. 

Of course, while swimming is a fantastic exercise, as with any activity, if you do too much too soon, it is possible that injuries can occur.

Swim injuries vary depending on how the injury occurred, what stroke you were using, and where on your body you feel the pain.

Swimmers shoulder - the classic — 

Every style of swimming uses the arms, and therefore uses the rotator cuff muscle group. This is one of the reasons swimming can be such great exercise.

However, if you ask your rotator cuff to do more than it is ready for at a given time, injury is almost guaranteed.

Injury to the rotator cuff can feel like a sharp or stabbing pain in your shoulder that worsens with movement, particularly mid stroke of a swim, or when you lift your hand above your head.

This is not the sort of injury that will disappear on its own and will require attention. If this sounds familiar, contact your health care specialist. 

Breaststrokers Knee —

When swimming breaststroke, the explosive contraction of the muscles in your thigh during the whip kick puts pressure on the tendons and ligaments of the knee.

If the body is not prepared for or has not had adequate adaptation time, injury can occur.

Breaststroker’s knee can feel like a sharp pain on the inside of the knee during the whip kick, with a possible dull ‘tired’ ache for a few hours following.

Mild swelling may also be present.

If you suspect this injury, manage the acute pain with RICE - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

If the symptoms persist, contact your health care professional.

However, with Breaststroker’s knee, as is the case with most swimming injuries, technique plays a major role in its development.

Once you are ready to swim again then, be sure to have your technique evaluated by a qualified swim coach to lessen the chances of a reoccurrence.

Neck Injury — 

Neck injuries in swimming are usually felt on the back of the neck, near the shoulder blades and up towards the back of the skull.

They occur in the front lying position when the postural muscles of the back support the head against gravity.

If the back is weak or unable to do this, the weight of the head is redistributed to the small muscles of the neck, potentially overworking/overtaxing them.

This injury occurs most frequently in swimming because the front lying position is the most common stoke position.

Rotation of the head from side to side to breathe in freestyle can further increase the load on these small muscles and exacerbate the injury. 

Massage therapy and joint mobilization techniques can help alleviate pain and should be used to supplement a proper stretching and strengthening program. 

Angie Ferguson is an exercise physiologist and Tony Robbins Results Coach from Fort Myers, Florida. She also is a Corrective Biomechanics Specialist, USA Triathlon Advanced Level 2 coach, USA Cycling coach, has a Specialty in Sports Nutrition certification, and a PhD in results!  


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