Three tips to prevent swimming shoulder injuries


Dr. Tauberg uses an evidence based approach to get people out of pain and back to enjoying their active lifestyles. Dr. Tauberg has been certified by the University of Pittsburgh as a Primary Spine Practitioner, is a certified chiropractic sports practitioner, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and is an emergency medical responder. He is also the team chiropractor for The Pittsburgh Vengeance.

Shоuldеr pain іѕ a common issue for swimmers so common that it has its own name; swimmers' shoulder.

Post from Dr. Alex Tauberg

Swimmers' shoulder is not an exact diagnosis. Swimmers' shoulder is a catch-all term used for overuse injuries that swimmers can develop in their shoulders. It can include injuries of the rotator cuff musculature, the joint capsule, and the cartilage.

The issue with swimmers' shoulder is simple. Its painful and prevents you from
swimming to the best of your abilities and in some cases stops you from swimming all together. When ignored and swimmers keep training through this pain then the issue can worsen and may become a severe condition.

The best way to stop swimmers' shoulder from effecting you is to implement preventative measures to reduce your risk and to know how to deal with shoulder pain if it does come about.

The most effective measures are to implement the appropriate warm up, recovery, and exercises into your routine.

Here are three tips that you should implement today to help you protect your shoulder.

Implement a routine evidence based warm up - Dynamic Stretching

Before you hit the pool or the gym, you need to properly prepare your body for the
activities ahead. All to often, warm-up routines focus around static stretches with the goal of “preventing injury.” The issue with this is that static stretches don’t prevent injuries.

Dynamic stretching on the other hand does seem to prevent injuries and can improve functional mobility and stability. Dynamic stretching is when you take the body through repetitive movements, that facilitate the muscles, get the blood flowing, and loosen up your joints. 

Your routine should incorporate dynamic stretches that focus on movements similar to
what you will be using in your workout.

Examples that help prevent swimmers shoulder include:

  • cross body arm swings,
  • arm circles,
  • banded pull aparts , etc…

Implement a routine recovery – Static Stretching

Post swim or even post workout, you need to help your body to recover optimally. When swimmers routinely skip their cool downs, it's common for them to have reduced mobility and flexibility in the upper body and especially the shoulders. This can be a large contributor to swimmers' shoulder.

Static stretches do help to improve mobility and flexibility. Performing static stretches
after a workout helps to prevent your body from tightening up. After a workout the blood is flowing to your muscles and they have become contracted due to the work they were doing. Static stretches performed right after a workout take advantage of the present blood flow. This blood flow is important for getting the muscles to relax and elongate.

Static stretches that help prevent swimmers shoulder include:

  • wall assisted pec stretch, 
  • cross body stretch,
  • sleepers stretch,
  • overhead tricep stretch, etc..

Strеngthеnіng Yоur Rоtаtоr Cuff With a Focus on Scapular Retraction.

Strengthening your rotator cuff is a great way to prevent injury and resulting disability to
the area and the shoulder in general. This holds true with swimmers' shoulder.

When you perform exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff you are actually strengthening the whole shoulder. With that said, when performing rotator cuff exercises there needs to be a focus on scapular retraction. Scapular retraction is when you pull your scapula together. Strengthening these muscles will provide your shoulder with more support and stability throughout its range of motion.

Some of the best exercises that swimmers should implement to protect their shoulders

  • weighted Is, Ts, and Ys. 
  • dumbbell flys,
  • seated dumbbell rows, etc..

While these tips are simple they are a good starting place to protect your shoulders. The
strategies here can be applied from a whole body perspective and should be focused on your particular swimming style and body build.

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