Swimmer’s Shoulder

The term swimmer’s shoulder was first coined by Drs. R. Hawkins and J. Kennedy to outline common shoulder problems among competitive swimmers. Swimmer’s shoulder in itself is not a diagnosis, but is a pain and shoulder dysfunction complex. This is caused as a consequence of primary shoulder impingement due to repetitive stress on tendons of supraspinatus and long head of biceps.

It was previously suggested that gender and level of training and competition were the most common risk factors for shoulder injuries. However, new research reveals that the type of swimming stroke (breast stroke < 50% injuries in comparison to other strokes) and the athletes dominant side to be the major factors contributing towards injury.

Another major problem to address among the swimming population is posture in and out of the pool. This can be achieved by training oneself to be conscious about it and making subtle lifestyle changes, like sleeping flat on your back with a pillow under your thighs to align the neck and shoulder releasing unnecessary pressure. In the pool, swimming is a type of resistance exercise, similar to lifting weights. Therefore, it is important to correct posture and technique before you increasing training load.

Prevention and rehabilitation of swimmer’s shoulder should begin with dry land exercises working on scapular stabilizing muscles to reduce exposure to the risk factors in predisposed athletes and to limit extension of any existing shoulder pathology. It has been documented that in early years of the athlete, swimmer’s shoulder is attributed to high training volume without organized dry land training programs leading to muscle strength imbalance of the shoulder complex.

Remember! Repetition alone isn’t enough to injure, but repetition of bad technique or repetition in bad posture. Bad posture can lead to limited mobility affecting the power output and predisposing to a number of injuries.

Posture alignment training, stroke technique correction and dry land exercises are important for management of swimmer’s shoulder. These should include mobility training of extremities and the spine, strength training for muscles associate to the shoulder girdle, core stability and proprioceptive training programs.


Dr. Atwar Hussain,
M.B.B.S, Msc. SEM (UK) ,Dip. SEM(IOC)

Dip. SEM (FIFA).
Sports and Exercise Physician

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