Mastering ‘Swimmers Shoulder’

Did you know that:

  • More than 1/3 of high-level swimmers can’t train normally because of swimmers shoulder?
  • About 90% of complaints that make swimmers visit the doctor/physiotherapist is about pain in the shoulder?

What causes swimmers shoulder?

The average swimmer can perform upwards of more than 1 million strokes per year swimming. The repeated movement of a freestyle stroke can lead to an overuse injury in certain cases.

‘Swimmers shoulder’ is a broader term that refers to multiple issues that contribute to the problem. Especially poor stroke technique. About 9 times out of 10, correcting elbow or hand position during a crawl stroke can help alleviate the problem.

Training errors such as overtraining, overloading, combined with poor stroke technique are one of the most common reasons for swimmers acquiring shoulder issues.

Altered posture may contribute to stressing the back and shoulder-supporting muscles. Slouching/forward-leaning posture is particularly bad. As it creates unnecessary strain on the upper neck and back muscles. Contributing to ‘swimmers shoulder’ and/or other joint issues and pains.

Bad posture can lead to a multitude of problems. Including, but not limited to: Neck pains, Headaches, reduced back strength and strain on shoulder musculature. imgsrc

How to prevent it:

Adjusting the technique would be where everyone should start. It’s not that hard to correct bad stroke, but it’s important to know what to look for.

  • 1. Body Rotation, and high elbow during the recovery phase. One of the reasons this is important is to ensure that the shoulder doesn’t get ‘pinched’ in the last part of the recovery phase. It also makes you swim faster because of the increased torque and power generated from body rotation.
  • 2. The hand leading the stroke should enter the water with a level, or fingertips first approach. If the thumbs are entering the water first, there is excessive internal rotation and ultimately puts a lot more stress on the shoulder.
  • 3. Catch (High elbow underwater). The ‘catch’ phase underwater is a very important part of the crawl, and sadly to often overlooked. An early catch/high elbow(with proper rotation) directs the power of the rotation through the arm and out the back. In contrast, straight arm (or late/deep catch) underwater directs the power downward at the beginning of the stroke, often making the swimmer appear to be ‘bouncing’ as they swim. This is not a good thing, as lots of energy goes to waste, and the shoulder is stressed immensely at each stroke.
Source Material of this Article:
1: ufitclinic
2: clevelandclinic
3: active.com
4: swimmingworldmagazine
5: yourswimlog
Photo by Jim De Ramos from Pexels

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