2 surpisingly simple tricks to avoid swimmer’s shoulder

Good posture can go a long way to keeping shoulder pain from getting to be an injury that keeps the swimmer from the pool.

A swimmer with shoulder pain is a common sight in the sport. With few exceptions, shoulder pain in a swimmer will be an overuse injury, meaning it builds over time with continuous irritation from the same repeated motions.

This happens for a few reasons:

  • The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body
  • The mechanics of swimming require lots of motion at the shoulder joint
  • With increased motion in the joint comes less stability of that joint
  • A swimmer can exceed 2,000 strokes for one shoulder in a single workout

Two simple tricks can go a long way to keeping shoulder pain from getting to be an injury that keeps the swimmer from the pool.

1. Check their posture

The first thing to check when your swimmer comes to you with shoulder pain is their posture. The nature of swimming workouts gives a swimmer very developed pectoral muscles, which they need for stroke efficiency and speed. This can cause those muscles to pull where they attach on the arm and can give a swimmer a rounded shoulder appearance, meaning that the shoulders are coming forward when at rest. Posture like this can pinch important structures in the shoulder, particularly in the anterior portion, which are already more vulnerable. It will also affect structures in the back, which are being stretched and weakened by this posture.

To fix this, have them focus on straightening up as if a string were being pulled from the torso through the top of the head. Roll your shoulders back to an even position on either side of your body. No need to throw them back overly far or puff your chest out, just keep them back in line with the rest of your body.

2. Focus on muscle stabilization

In conjunction with the chance in posture, you need to focus on the scapular stabilizers, the muscles that work in between and around the shoulder blades. These muscles are often weak and cannot function properly without some attention.

When practicing good posture, you can feel those muscles fire up. An exercise called scap squeezes can work them even more. While in your good posture position, pretend you are trying to squeeze a penny between your shoulder blades by squeezing those muscles, leaving your arms by your side. Hold the squeeze for 5 seconds, then release.

Both of these techniques can be used throughout the day while your swimmer is at school. Practicing good posture and scap squeezes can reduce a number of shoulder problems by introducing proper position and body mechanics. Pain in the shoulder may be common in swimming, but that does not mean they have to “push through it”. There are modifications and options available to keep them from doing making things worse.

At Cincinnati Children’s Sports Medicine department, we want to do everything we can to keep your child in the water as much as possible. There are resources available for you and your swimmer, and we invite you to contact us with any questions or concerns at (513) 803-HURT.

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Rebecca Connolly Follow

Rebecca Connolly is an athletic trainer in the Division of Sports Medicine at Cincinnat... View Full Bio

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