Preventing swimming injuries

Though swimming is considered low impact, that doesn’t mean injuries can’t occur.

Why do you swim? Is it for exercise? Or do you just enjoy the peace and tranquility that come with being in the water? Whatever the reason, swimming is an effective form of exercise and a great way to relax after a stressful day.

Though swimming is considered low impact, that doesn’t mean injuries can’t occur. Most swimming injuries happen due to overuse or incorrect technique.

Common swimming injuries
The shoulders and lower body are most affected by swimming injuries or overuse. Whether you’re a novice or professional swimmer, you can develop:

  • Swimmer’s shoulder
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Tennis elbow
  • Biceps and triceps tendinitis
  • Breaststroker’s knee
  • Adductor strains (groin pulls)

Treatment for these conditions varies. Minor injuries usually can be treated with rest, ice and physical therapy to strengthen the affected muscles. Your physician may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling and tenderness. Severe injuries may require surgery.

Preventing swimming injuries
The best way to prevent swimming injuries is to always practice good technique. Staying physically fit with a balanced routine that includes stretching and strengthening all parts of the body — particularly your back, shoulders and arms — will also reduce your risk of developing an injury from swimming.

Young athletes particularly need to increase yardage slowly while developing strength. Many shoulder injuries are caused by placing too much strain on bones and joints that are still growing.

If you experience a swimming injury, return to the pool only when your health care professional says it is safe to do so.

Jennifer Brey, M.D., is a board-eligible orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in pediatric orthopaedics. Dr. Brey’s mission is to help children return to their pre-injury function as quickly as possible while working with families to reduce the chance of future injury.

Dr. Brey is on staff at Norton Children’s Hospital and Norton Children’s Medical Center – Brownsboro. Away from the office, she and her family enjoy U of L athletics, where Dr. Brey earned four varsity letters in swimming. She is a member of U.S. Masters Swimming and USA Triathlon.


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