Swimming is a great way to get an all-over workout and stay healthy. But as with all exercise, it can lead to injuries if it is improperly carried out. Since swimming is not a contact sport, most of the injuries that people sustain from it tend to be caused by the repetitive motions involved. This of course means that they affect people who swim often over a long period of time, so if you are an avid swimmer, it is important to be aware of these injuries, and what you can do to prevent them.
Swimmer's shoulder is one of the most common injuries for people who swim regularly. It is a relatively vague term that refers to general pain caused by the overuse of shoulders when swimming. Obviously, most swimming techniques rely quite heavily on movement of the arms, as they are the main driving force we use to propel ourselves forward in water, and the techniques used don't really apply to any other aspects of life. The pain brought on by swimmer's shoulder are often caused by a muscle imbalance that develops over time by using the same techniques without variety or additional training. Swelling of the rotator cuff, the tendons in the shoulders that support the arm, is also a common source of pain for swimmer's shoulder. The best way to prevent the onset of this injury is to vary the strokes you use while swimming. Frontcrawl and backstroke are the main causes of swimmer's shoulder, while the breaststroke is the least likely to cause it. Exercising your shoulder muscles outside the pool to ensure that you do not develop a muscle imbalance is another important way to ensure that you don't develop swimmer's shoulder.
Lower Back Pain
This is usually a result of relying too heavily on the butterfly stroke. The butterfly stroke is one of the most physically exerting exercises in swimming, and is mainly used by competitive swimmers. This of course means that it is mainly used by people who swim quite frequently, which is why it leads to pain over time. The reason the lower back is affected is that, unlike most other strokes, people do not turn to the side to come up for air when doing the butterfly. Instead, they remain positioned with their torsos parallel to the bottom of the pool, and lift their heads directly up. This motion places a huge amount of stress on the lower back, and gradually leads to pain. The best way to prevent this from occurring is to work out the back muscles, and stretch them before and after swimming. Again, varying the strokes practiced rather than focussing on one is also important.
Swimmer's knee is a type of knee pain that is mostly attributed to the breaststroke, which is why it is also known as breaststroke knee. Because of the fact that the breaststroke is often regarded as the "easy" stroke, many people practice it with improper technique, which is the main cause behind the development of swimmer's knee. Kicking our legs while they are positioned at what is essentially a 90 degree angle places a lot of stress on the knee, and this can cause gradual damage if the breaststroke is done improperly over a long period of time. The results can be weak knees, dull pain, sudden and sharp pangs, and swelling/inflammation. The best way to prevent swimmer's knee is to ensure that you have the proper technique, and not to kick too forcefully.
Breathing technique is a very important aspect of optimising your swimming performance, but a lot of people will focus mainly on getting their timing right and not the actual way in which they are bringing up their head for air. It can be a hard thing to bear in mind, as usually we are more concerned about getting air than we are about how we get it, but it is another example of the repetitive motions that gradually lead to pain. The most common cause of neck pain in swimming is extending the neck too far when coming up for air, so that is the most important thing to be aware of if you want to prevent neck injuries. While it may be instinctive to stretch our heads as far as we can, it is better to come up just far enough to get the air you need. Neck rolls and stretches outside the pool are also a great way to prevent this injury, and can be done pretty much anywhere.