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Posted by on May 16, 2012 | 0 comments

You’d Better Slow Down if You Want to Avoid Swimming Injuries!

Summer is almost here, and when the temperatures rise, you’ll want to do an exercise that not only gets the job done but also keeps you cool.

Swimming is a longtime favorite summer activity for children and adults alike. Better yet, swimming has the reputation of being a low-impact form of exercise and is kinder on the joints. But just because it’s a low-impact exercise doesn’t mean that injuries never abound, especially when done incorrectly, in excess, or in speeds that you’re not used to.

Four major injuries can occur while swimming – swimmer’s shoulder, breaststroke knee, neck injuries, and lower back injuries. Here are some tips to help you avoid obtaining these injuries!

Swimmer’s Shoulder –This is probably the most common injury found in swimming. Usually, it’s caused by the user implementing bad technique or by working out too quickly or too much or simply by overusing the muscles. Sometimes the injury can occur when swim paddles and pull buoys are used.

To prevent swimmer’s shoulder, be sure that you are using the correct technique when you swim. A qualified swimming professional or even an experienced swimmer can help you pinpoint your mistakes and show you how to properly stroke.  Don’t over train or work out with tired muscles since the stabilizing muscles in the shoulder could be injured or over-fatigued. Additionally, avoid suddenly increasing your speed or workload in your workouts. Remember, slow and steady ultimately wins the race!

Breaststroke Knee (a.k.a. Swimmer’s Knee) – As the name may suggest, this injury is generated by the stroke mechanics of the breaststroke kick. Whenever you extend your legs and then bring them back together during the propulsive phase of the kick, your knees are subjected to external rotation and the lower leg bending outward. Additionally, your inner ligament in your knee (known as the medial collateral ligament) is also put under stress.

Don’t want breaststroke knee? Try alternating your swimming strokes. Try doing butterfly strokes, backstrokes, or even freestyle. Perhaps give yourself rest periods during the year in which you don’t use breaststrokes. During that time you could engage in strengthening exercises for your quadriceps and your hamstrings. Additionally, try using swimming fins and they will help with resistance. And, most importantly, warm up and stretch before you swim!

Neck Injuries – Usually neck injuries occur because the swimmer is using incorrect technique while swimming. Neck injuries can be easily avoided in nearly all the different forms of swimming.

If you are using the freestyle stroke, be sure to keep your head in line with your spine as much as possible with your eyes looking straight down. Try not to look forward or lift your head to breath, and avoid over-rotating your head when you inhale. Instead, rotate your BODY more so that your head won’t have to do so much of the work!

When you use the butterfly stroke or the breaststroke, keep your head aligned with your spine at ALL times. Breathe while looking down so your head stays in a neutral position and is much less prone to injury.

Lower Back Injuries – These injuries are typically obtained due to incorrect technique. If you aren’t certain of how to properly use the correct technique while swimming, consider taking swimming lessons or talking with an experienced swimmer.

While using the freestyle stroke, you can get lower pack injuries if you swim with a high head position or if your hips and legs tend to sink and you kick hard to keep your legs up, overarching your back. Try working on your position and balance so you can find a relaxed horizontal position and provide relief for your lower back.

When using the butterfly stroke, poor technique and lifting your upper body out of the water with your back strength can lead to lower back injuries. If you happen to swim like this, try working on your body undulation and dolphin kick so that it’s the body wave, not your back, that lifts your upper body out of the water. And as always, warm up and stretch properly before doing the stroke.

What’s that? Want some more tips on how to prevent injuries? We’ve got you covered!

*Warm up/cool down and stretch before and after swimming.

*Take swimming lessons and swim under supervision. Never swim alone as this could lead to more serious injury or even death.

*Don’t swim if you’re overheated, too cold, too tired, have a fever, have an upper respiratory infection, or have an ear infection.

*If you’re diving, be sure that the water is deep and safe enough. NEVER dive in the shallow end of a pool (this also goes for lakes and rivers)!

*Not up to full-fledged swimming? No problem! Pool walking is an excellent form of water exercise, and you are much less prone to injuries!

For more tips or if you have any further questions, contact Fitness4Life at (618) 656-5433 or visit!