Common Swimming Injuries and How To Prevent Them


Swimming is a very popular sport for many, it’s a great form of exercise for others and some simply like swimming in leisure time to take the stress away.

Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

While swimming is a great way to do all of that it’s also important to pay attention to joints, muscles, and bones when performing the activity. There are many health benefits related to swimming, while there are also certain risks one should be mindful and knowledgeable of before going for a swim.

Long-term swimming has a way of wearing on the joints specifically in the elderly, but let’s talk about how to prevent that particular problem from getting worse. There are ways to prevent injuries that result from swimming, and it’s important to be aware of that helpful information.

What are some health benefits to swimming?

Swimming has many positive effects on the body that some are aware of and many probably aren’t aware of. There are health benefits and there are also benefits to swimming when looking to lose weight or tone up.

In terms of weight loss swimming obviously affects the physical body, but there are positive mental health benefits as well.

Benefits of swimming include:

  • Improves coordination
  • Improves flexibility
  • Decreases stress
  • Increases heart rate which assists in shedding fat
  • Builds endurance
  • Increases muscle strength

Because swimming is such a low impact activity it’s perfectly normal for one to begin swimming at any age, and continue into old age. It’s the perfect exercise and sometimes a form of therapy for many who can benefit from those positive factors.

With the upside to swimming, there is also a potential injury aspect that you’ll want to know, so that you know how to prevent injuries from happening to you or someone you love.

How does one get injured while swimming?

With any exercise and with any sport it’s always important to implement stretching into the regimen somehow. Whether it means taking a day and setting it aside for solely stretching, or being sure to stretch prior to performing whatever activity. Stretching can’t be dismissed or taken lightly.

Stretching keeps the body from being stiff and aids in bringing about more flexibility. Any tightness within the muscles, many times causes there to be a reduction of flexibility in the joints. A lack of elasticity and flexibility within the joints and muscles prevents muscles from moving in the way they are to operate, resulting many times in an injury.

Outdoor Swimming suggests 5 of the best stretches a swimmer can perform before diving in. Those stretches include the stretching of the triceps, deltoids, pectorals, latissimus dorsi and one helping with thoracic mobility.

What are some of the causes of swimming injuries?

A lack of stretching is one of the major causes of injuries in any exercise or sport, but there are many other causes of injuries pertaining to swimming.

Some of those causes include:

  • Poor breathing technique
  • Poor flexibility
  • Poor range of motion
  • Weak rotator cuff
  • Weak core strength
  • Overtraining
  • Improper stroke mechanics

There is a method to swimming and the strokes are important to understand. Once one learns to swim it seems to be a piece of cake, however, it’s important just like any other form of exercise to maintain the proper forms and ways of movement in and through the water.

According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, there are different stroke mechanics, and with each stroke technique comes risks when not performed accurately. They also explain how one is to breath properly when performing the different techniques.

Can I Overuse My Muscles While Swimming?

Because swimming entails much movement of the shoulders and rotator cuffs are related to the shoulders, when that muscle is weak it can result in injury due to the repetitive movement.

Being in the water adds resistance and swimming in the form of competition pushes one to swim as fast as one can, which leads many to overtrain those muscles. Too much exercise of any kind and not enough rest almost always leads to overtraining.

Training is involved when preparing for swim meets, and because it’s normal to be competitive when competing, the level of training varies for some. When the training is too much it leads one into a risk zone where injuries are more prone to occur.

Why Is Breathing So Important?

Breathing is important because not breathing properly disables oxygen to freely and properly flow within the body, and when the muscles lack enough oxygen they are more prone to injury.

Two Common Types of Swimming Injuries

While there are many types of injuries this article will explain three of those most common injuries, and how to further prevent them. If you’re already dealing with a certain injury then it’s important to get the proper treatment and be sure you’re initiating daily stretching into your regimen while you rest.

Common Types of Injuries include:

  1. Breaststrokers’ knee – Although the knees don’t seem to be relevant when swimming, they can take on a very real level of pain and pressure. The breaststroke is one of the stroke techniques in swimming that involves the knees to do more than the basic freestyle technique. However, the injuries to the knees while swimming are due to weaknesses in other parts of the body, such as the core.

A weak core is one of the causes of injury and in this case, it is a common cause of the Breaststrokers’ knee injury. A strong core keeps everything balanced leading there to be no extra strain being placed on other parts of the body while performing this particular stroke.

While the breaststroke isn’t the only form that can bring about this injury, it’s the most common stroke to manifest this injury.

  1. Swimmers shoulder – Also known medically as impingement syndrome.  There are many parts to the shoulder, the term swimmers shoulder defines injury being brought to any one of those parts, not just one and not always referring to all. The overuse of the shoulders places more pressure on the rotator cuffs, causing fatigue and weakness resulting in injury.

As one of the 5-star rated chiropractic doctors in Alaska, we know a few things you can do for pain. In order to prevent injuries while swimming it’s important to stretch, maintain the proper amount of fluids within the body, get the proper amount of rest and don’t push your muscles too hard, therefore running the risk of overtraining. Consider seeing a chiropractor as well. Chiropractor prices are extremely affordable and they can help your injury.

About Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. has been a chiropractor for over 20 years and has treated thousands of patients. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998 and is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.


About Author

Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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