Ask the Expert: Swimming Injuries

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Today marks the first day of the FINA World Swimming Championships and all participants went through intensive training leading up to the event. In this week’s installment of Ask the Expert, Dr. Scott Rodeo, Orthopedic Surgeon, answers questions on swimming injuries.

Q1. Where do most swimming injuries often occur?

The most commonly injured area in swimmers is the shoulder due to the repetitive overhead activity. Also, low back injuries often occur due to the repetitive hyperextension that occurs during butterfly and breaststroke. As many swimming injuries relate to overuse, the onset begins not only in the pool, but also in the weight room.

Q2. Why are swimmers often prone to overuse injuries?

By far, the most common mechanism of injury is repetitive overhead motion of the shoulder. The nature of swimming training, with thousands of arm rotations per day, leads to cumulative stress on the tissues around the shoulder.

Q3. Does technique play a role in swimming injuries?

Although numerous factors are involved in the onset of symptoms, technique may certainly play a role. Certain arm positions are more likely to cause impingement of the rotator cuff tendons. Factors such as the height of the arm during the recovery phase of the stroke and the position where the hand enters the water can relate to the onset of shoulder pain.

Q4. How can swimming injuries be prevented?

The most effective way to minimize the risk of injury is to develop and maintain strength in the major muscle groups, including the rotator cuff, the muscles around the scapula (shoulder blade), and core (muscles of the lower back, pelvis, and hips). Swimming technique factors that may increase the risk of injury should also be identified and corrected, which can be done by working with a knowledgeable swimming coach.

Dr. Scott Rodeo is an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery. He specializes in sports medicine injuries of the knee, shoulder, ankle, and elbow. He also performs arthritis surgery of the knee and shoulder, including joint replacement surgery. Dr. Rodeo is Associate Team Physician for the New York Giants and has taken care of the team through four Super Bowl appearances


The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.

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