What measures do you take to prevent injury and maintain optimum body condition when swimming?
Common Swimming Injuries
Swimming is a healthy activity for all ages and has a comparatively low risk for injury compared with many other sports. Some health risks nevertheless should be taken note of, particularly those with serious or life-threatening consequences:
Overuse injuries may result, including back pain, vertebral fractures or shoulder pain, (particularly from excessive butterfly strokes over time).
Breaststroke swimmers may develop knee or hip pain, while freestyle and backstroke swimmers risk shoulder pain, (known as swimmer’s shoulder – a form of tendonitis).
Did you know…Swimming is a popular competitive sport and recreational pastime nearly everywhere in the world which dates back to 2000 B.C.!!
Specific Styles & Your Body.
- Freestyle or front-crawl.
Competitive swimming is primarily an aerobic exercise, involving long exercise time. Muscles must be constantly supplied with oxygen, with the exception of sprints where the muscles are worked anaerobically. Swimming, particularly in events where the stroke styles are varied between backstroke, front crawl (freestyle) and breast stroke, make use of all major muscle groups:
- Biceps and triceps (arms)
The basic muscles used for each stroke are:
- Back-stroke; Triceps (upper arm) and leg muscles
- Breast-stroke; thighs, biceps, and gluteal muscles
- Butterfly; abdominals, deltoids and leg muscles
- Freestyle; deltoids and legs muscles
A single stroke, for example, the butterfly, requires the coordination of various muscles and muscle groups, including:
- External and internal obliques
- Latissimus dorsi
- Middle and lower trapezius
- Posterior deltoids
- Rectus abdominis
- Rhomboid muscles
- Transverse abdominis
Hand force applied to the water is actually generated by the rotation of the hips, rather than the muscles of the arm. Torque generated by the larger, stronger hip muscles, allows the swimmer’s powerful arm strokes to strike the water with a rapid turn of the hips.
Did you know elite swimmers focusing on increasing the acceleration of their hips are able to double their peak hand force output?
Injury Prevention Strategies
- Always take time to warm up and stretch, as cold muscles are more prone to injury.
- Avoid swimming alone or in unsupervised areas.
- Properly pace swimming activity avoiding situations of exhaustion, overheating or excessive cold
- Never dive into shallow water, as serious risk exists for disabling neck and back injuries
- Extreme care should be taken in open water. Be certain the water is free of undercurrents, rips in the tide and other hazards
- Avoid swimming in lakes or rivers following a storm, when severe currents may be present
- Use of alcohol should be strictly avoided before swimming, as judgment, orientation and thermal regulation are all impaired with alcohol consumption
- Dry the body thoroughly after swimming and remove excess water from the ear canal to avoid infection
- Attention to proper swimming technique as well as strength and agility training can help avoid common overuse injuries
- Swimmers should be at least minimally knowledgeable about first aid and be prepared to administer it in the case of minor injuries including facial cuts, bruises, minor tendonitis, strains, or sprains
The Top 3 Swimming Stretches
Reaching-up Shoulder Stretch: Place one hand behind your back and then reach up between your shoulder blades.
Arm-up Rotator Stretch: Stand with your arm out and your forearm pointing upwards at 90 degrees. Place a broom stick in your hand and behind your elbow. With your other hand pull the bottom of the broom stick forward.
Single Heel-drop Calf Stretch: Stand on a raised object or step. Put the ball of one foot on the edge of the step and keep your leg straight. Let your heel drop towards the ground.