With summer well underway, one way to beat the heat and exercise is to
swim. Swimming is a great sport for all ages. Whether it’s recreational
swimming in your backyard or community pool, or more competitive team
swimming, it’s important to be mindful of potential injuries and
ways to strengthen your upper body.
Dr. David Gazzaniga provided his expert feedback on common swimming injuries and how to strengthen
Q. What are common injuries swimmers may experience?
Dr. David Gazzaniga: Swimmer injuries center around their
shoulder. Repetitive trauma from overusing a particular stroke creates an imbalance
in your shoulder that can cause short- or longer-term damage.
Q: What are some ways swimmers can prevent injuries?
Dr. David Gazzaniga: Be mindful of how you position your shoulder. Ensure you’re working
on the whole shoulder and maintain strength around the entire shoulder,
don’t get stuck doing one motion over and over. Swimmers can decrease
the amount of strain by using kick board or fins. Fins in particular do
not require as much use in the shoulder and increases resistance in the
legs and feet instead.
Overall, pay attention to how you work out. Varying the distance, stroke,
and intensity of workout will help protect your shoulders. Swimmers should
ensure they warm up properly on the days they swim. Incorporate rotator
cuff exercises with bands, ensure shoulder blades are in a proper position,
and maintain another exercise outside of swimming to ensure overall strength.
Q: For parents of younger children or adolescents getting into swimming,
what are some precautions they should take to avoid injury?
Dr. David Gazzaniga: For the most part, young athletes are treated like adults and it’s
not a great strategy. For younger athletes, any pain needs to be addressed
early on to ensure it’s not a chronic or repetitive injury cause
by overuse, which can take longer to resolve. As a parent, look for lingering
pain that continues for periods of time. Any soreness should resolve within
three days or so and if it’s not, it might be pain that needs to
be treated. Generally, if pain exists longer than a week or two, you should
seek the care of a physician to determine next steps.