New York—July 5, 2011
John Cavanaugh, PT and Dr. Scott Rodeo
Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise. It’s easy on the joints and provides a terrific workout in terms of aerobic exercise and improving muscle strength.
With summer on the way, many people are gearing up to get back in the swim. Competitive swimmers may be training for triathlons that often take place during warm weather months. At a recent conference focusing on the endurance athlete at Hospital for Special Surgery, Dr. Scott Rodeo discussed the most common swimming injuries, why they happen, and how to treat and prevent them.
Dr. Rodeo, co-chief of the Sports Medicine Service at Hospital for Special Surgery and chairman of the USA Swimming Sports Medicine Committee, said the most common injury is referred to as “swimmer’s shoulder” and can affect up to 70 percent of competitive swimmers.
“Most often, shoulder pain is caused by an overuse injury,” he said. “If you think about a competitive swimmer’s number of stroke revolutions per day, per week, per month, per year, it’s phenomenal. We’re talking about half a million stroke revolutions per year.”
According to Dr. Rodeo, the main causes of shoulder pain in swimmers are:
Dr. Rodeo noted that the shoulder is an inherently unstable joint. “Shoulder stability is controlled by a synchronous pattern of muscle firing. Changes in the way the muscles work due to overload or fatigue can alter shoulder mechanics and cause problems.”
Basically, by doing too much of the activity, the shoulder muscle becomes overloaded. When a muscle is fatigued, other muscles try to compensate, leading to an imbalance. The shoulder is no longer functioning normally, and this leads to pain.
Good practices can minimize the risk of a shoulder injury, according to John Cavanaugh, PT, a physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery. He has the following tips:
If shoulder pain develops, it’s important to pay attention to it so it doesn’t turn into a serious problem, according to Dr. Rodeo. He has this advice: