Swimming Injuries

Swimming is one of the least dangerous sports in terms of the risk of suffering a sports injury; this is partly attributed to the relatively slow speed of movement, lack of contact and the constant and predictable environment. Injuries in swimming are usually a result of overuse; examples of this type of injury are outlined below:

Impingement syndrome

What is impingement syndrome?

Impingement syndrome, which is also known as swimmer’s or thrower’s shoulder, is a condition which affects the shoulder joint. The condition is caused by the inflammation of the tendons surrounding the rotator cuff; the rotator cuff is made up of four principal muscles and is responsible for supporting the shoulder joint and creating movements which include moving the arm backwards.

Causes of impingement syndrome

The main cause of impingement syndrome is rotator cuff tendonitis; as the tendons swell, there is less room for the tendons to travel through the subacromial space (the area underneath the acromion, which is the bony protrusion at the top of the scapula). The constant shoulder movement involved in swimming gradually causes the tendons to rub against the underside of the acromion, which can cause pain and irritation.

Symptoms of impingement syndrome

The onset of pain is usually gradual, although shooting pain may be experienced when the arms are raised above the head. Swelling and tenderness may also occur as a result of impingement syndrome. Shoulder movement may be restricted and the joint may feel weaker.

Treating impingement syndrome

Initial treatment will usually involve pain relief, anti-inflammatory medication and rest; if symptoms persist surgery may be required; this is used rarely but can help to smooth the surface of the acromion and repair damaged tendons which should reduce the chance of suffering with the condition in the future.

Preventing impingement syndrome

Specific stretches and exercises can be done to strengthen the muscles and tendons surrounding the rotator cuff; this will make the shoulder more resistant to injury. Physiotherapy can help to condition the shoulder to help prevent injuries in the future.

Breast stroke knee

What is breast stroke knee?

Knee injuries are common in those who swim breast stroke frequently; this is predominantly due to the position of the knee during the ‘whip kick’ movement. Commonly, this rotation action affects the medial collateral ligament, which runs along the inner side of the knee.

Causes of breast stroke knee

The most common causes are poor technique, which increases pressure on the knee joint and the medial collateral ligament in particular and overuse. Once the ligament has become strained, continuous exercise will exacerbate the situation.

Symptoms of breast stroke knee

Common symptoms include pain, which will become heightened during physical exercise which applies pressure on the knee. The knee may swell and feel tender and movement may be limited.

Treating breast stroke knee

Treatment usually includes resting the affected knee and taking medication to reduce swelling and ease pain. In extreme cases, surgery may be required.

Preventing breast stroke knee

Specific stretches and exercise can help to prevent this condition, in addition to thorough warm up and cool down sessions. Physiotherapy will help to strengthen the knee, improve flexibility and condition the body to prevent further injury.

Butterfly back injury

While swimming is generally thought to be beneficial for several cases of back pain, butterfly stroke should be avoided by people suffering with a back complaint. Butterfly back is another name for lower back pain, so-called because of its prevalence amongst elite butterfly swimmers.

Causes of lower back pain

Butterfly contributes to lower back pain because it constantly applies pressure to the bottom of the spine; the continuous action of arching the back applies direct pressure to the lumbar vertebrae, which are located at the base of the spine.

Symptoms of lower back injuries

The most common symptom of a lower back injury is pain, which may be mild or severe; in many cases, pain will persist unless controlled by analgesic medicine. Other symptoms may include restricted movement and swelling. Pain may become heightened when the back is straightened fully or bent.

Treating lower back pain

The most common treatment is rest; this is usually combined with anti-inflammatory medication and pain relief. Ice or heat therapy and massage may also help to reduce swelling and improve movement in the affected area. Physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic have all proven to be effective in improving flexibility, strengthening muscles and conditioning the body to prevent injuries in the future.

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