Swimmers can suffer shoulder injury from repetitive overhead movements

Swimming is often touted as the perfect exercise, working several muscles throughout the body with such low impact that it makes injuries less likely than in other sports. But a recent study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that 71 out of 80 elite male swimmers experienced shoulder pain. The pain from this “swimmers shoulder” comes from either tendonitis or from the pinching of the rotator cuff muscle. The culprit? Repetitive overhead movements, such as those from the main swimming strokes such as freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke and backstroke.

The pinching of the shoulder cuff muscle is one of the most common types of shoulder injury suffered by athletes who use repetitive overhead throwing motions, such as baseball and tennis players. This injury is generally caused by a muscle imbalance that can be righted with specialized training but worsened by the wrong training, according to Dr. Brughelli of SPARTA Performance Science in Menio Park, California.

The shoulder can internally rotate as fast as 7,000 degrees per second during a baseball pitch. With an injury, range of motion is reduced, compromising performance and causing pain. To avoid such injuries, Dr. Brughelli recommends that swimmers perform upper-body exercises that increase shoulder range of motion and increase strength of the scapula muscles, such as overhead pressing exercises, rowing exercises, pull-ups, chin-ups and Olympic lifts.

Most importantly, athletes should be properly trained and supervised to ensure that they are doing the exercises correctly. “With proper training and diagnosis, shoulder pain can be prevented, controlled or possibly eliminated,” Dr. Brughelli says.

Source: San Jose Mercury News