common swimming injuries
By Maria Rezhylo
3x World record holder in swimming & swim school owner
Dec. 20, 2022

Injuries in swimming

Although swimming is considered a low-impact sport, swimmers are not immune to injuries. In fact, swimmers deal with various lower back, neck, and joint injuries that impact their performance. Many sought to get surgery that would end their careers once and for all.

This article will discuss the most common swimming injuries and how to prevent them. Let's dive in!

The most common swimming injuries

We analyzed the current researches and brought to you the science of common swimming injuries in simple words.
  • Swimmer's shoulder
    A swimmer's shoulder is one of the most common injuries associated with swimming. Research indicates that shoulder injuries account for 55% of all injuries in competitive swimming.

    Swimmer's shoulder is an impingement syndrome of the supraspinatus and/or biceps tendons being compressed by the scapula. Shoulder impingement syndrome makes swimming unbearable.

    Today, athletes commonly get misdiagnosed with the swimmer's shoulder. The underlying cause of your shoulder pain after swimming can include tendinitis, bursitis, tendinopathy, directional instability, and labrum tear.
  • Neck injury
    In comparison to other sports, breathing in swimming demands more effort and coordination. With front crawl (freestyle) being the most popular swimming stroke, your neck requires a sufficient range of motion to breathe. In most cases, neck pain is associated with poor swimming technique and weak stabilizing muscles. It's worth mentioning that your neck pain can be associated with injuries in other regions.
  • Lower back injury
    Lower back account for as much as 68% of injuries in competitive swimmers and 29% in recreational swimmers. Back injuries are divided into minor and major. Minor lower back injuries like sprains and spasms can be resolved with the appropriate rest. In most major injury cases, continuing lower back pain is associated with degenerative disc processes. The duration of your training, frequency, and muscle strength are the common predeterminants of lower back injuries. Breaststroke and butterfly have higher rates of lower back injuries in swimming due to excessive hyperextension.
  • Rotator cuff injury
    Most of the propulsion in swimming comes from the upper body, particularly the shoulders. The vast majority of rotator cuff injuries happen slowly over time due to the repetitive nature of swimming.

    The latest study reveals that long swims decrease the overall stability of the shoulders due to rotator cuff fatigue. Swimming through the fatigue of the rotator cuff can result in inflammation. Inflammation will cause pain and discomfort. If pain is ignored, the rotator cuff will start to degenerate. Over time, the degeneration process will result in rotator cuff tear from swimming.
  • Knee injury
    Swimmer's knee account for 28% of injuries in swimming. Knee pain is commonly associated with a "breaststroker's knee". Due to the nature of the breaststroke kick, this stroke is responsible for most knee injuries in swimming. Your knee pain can be anything from a ligament sprain to knee cap dislocation, excessive fluid around your knee joint, meniscus injury, and joint inflammation.
  • Ankle injury
    Ankle and foot pain is believed to be caused by repetitive kicking. The most common ankle injuries include ligaments and/or tendons inflammation. It might be surprising for some, but ankle injuries account for 28% of all swimming injuries. However, those are minor injuries and can be resolved quickly.

What to do in case of swimming-induced injury

Now, are you hurt and wondering what to do? Here are the 3 pro tips on how to act in case of injury.
  • Rest
    It's very common for swimmers to push through the pain, ignoring all the stop signs. All because of the fear of losing the fitness condition you are in. But, trust me, nothing will make you lose your progress like a long-term recovery. So, if you notice any pain or discomfort early on, take a few steps back and relax. Rest is the best solution in the early stage of your injury.
  • Decrease swimming volume
    Nothing is going to make your overuse injury worse than more overuse! So, take it easy. Certain injuries will allow you to get a few laps in with certain modifications. Talk to your coach and decrease the training volume until the symptoms are gone. In most cases, you'll be able to recover quickly and get back to where you were.
  • Talk to your doctor
    If symptoms don't get better with prolonged rest, you should consult with your doctor. The underlying cause of your pain can be a serious injury. A doctor can perform a throughout examination and guide you to faster recovery.

    Conventional recovery methods can include physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, and rest. If your symptoms don't improve over time, your injury might require a surgical intervention.
Related articles
Swimmer's Shoulder Recovery Time - Personal Experience of Pro Swimmer [2023]
A swimmer’s shoulder recovery time depends on the severity of the case. The inflammation tends to go away after 2 weeks of rest, tears take from 3 to 8 months to heal.
Basic Swimming Tips — 12 tips From Pro Swimmers | Fast Swim Academy
1. Get swimming equipment, 2. Warm up, 3. Learn how to breathe, 4. Work on body position, 5. Build a strong kick, 6. Learn to relax, 7. Explore different strokes, 8. Focus, 9. Stretch, 10. Fuel, 11. Hydrate, 12. Rest

Now it's your turn! Have you ever been injured because of swimming?

Let me know in the comments below!