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Soothing Swimmers Shoulder- Top tips on how to avoid the swimmer’s curse!

With this years Rottnest Channel Swim fast approaching one of the most common injuries we see through the clinic is the dreaded Swimmers Shoulder. Rather than waiting for this injury to de-rail your training and race lead up, here are some top tips from our Sports Physiotherapist Amanda Simmonds.

Top 5 Risk factors leading to Swimmers Shoulder

Photo Courtesy Guy Maclean Photography

Clinical Joint Laxity & Shoulder Internal/External Rotation Strength

A number of studies have found the relationship between joint laxity (confirmed with specific joint laxity assessment by a Sports Physiotherapists) and an increased incidence of shoulder impingement syndrome in swimmers

Shoulder Internal/External Rotation strength ratio’s also play a critical role in injury prevention in swimmers. Rotator cuff muscles can act as major torque producers for shoulder rotation and with a number of simple exercises can be functionally trained to assist with efficient external/internal rotation strength for swimming loads.

Training load, volume and intensity

Due to the repetitive nature of swimming and in particular freestyle technique the Rotator Cuff tendon can easily be irritated with inappropriate load management. Often the most common cause of Shoulder pain in a swimmer participating in the Rotto Swim is the ‘boom/bust’ attitude of a sudden increase in swimming training with not a strong enough base (KM’s in the bank).

Therefore the benefits of training in a swimming squad with a highly skilled coach guiding you through your training loads is of up most importance! If you are taking on your own training program one simple rule to follow is not to increase training loads by more than 10% every second week, this includes not just KM’s but duration and skills such as the introduction to paddles.

Range of Movement

A close look at ideal range of movement for swimming can play a big role in injury prevention & performance enhancement. Area’s that can be assessed during a Swimming Screen with our Sports Physiotherapist include thoracic extension & Rotation, Shoulder Range of movement (in particular internal/external rotation through range in abduction) and hip extension.

From the assessment if any imbalances are found with range of movement screening a home mobility program can assist with maintaining adequate range of the individual needs (stroke and distance comes in to play).

Core & Glenohumeral Stability

Reduced trunk and scapula stability strength can increase the loads through the shoulder during swimming. In regards to the scapula in swimmers it is common to see scapular dyskinesis which can later play a large role in the position of the humeral head during loaded shoulder movements.

Whilst many swimmers work on ‘core’ strength they often are not including exercises that involve rotation and some degree of body extension to reproduce the freestyle position. Our Sports Physiotherapists can provide a comprehensive strength program to address both shoulder and core stability specific to swimming.

Technical Errors

Some of the common errors seen in technique that can lead to shoulder pain include; insufficient thoracic rotation, poor timing of hip rotation and crossing midline on hand entry & wide during entry and pull phase. Our senior Sports Physiotherapist Amanda Simmonds is available for swimming assessment at Claremont Pool or can work closely with your swimming coach to assess technique errors work on training modifications/drills to correct these.

If you feel that you have any of these symptoms or would like some help ensuring you stay injury free in the lead up to your next swimming event our Senior Sports physiotherapist Amanda Simmonds is available for appointments for swimming screening in clinic and swimming technique assessment by request. 

Photo Courtesy Rottnest Channel Swim Association

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