What is Swimmers Shoulder?
Swimmers shoulder is a generalised term used to define a number of different injury issues at the shoulder as a result of general overuse from swimming.
A competitive and/or elite swimmer may perform tens of thousand rotation movements at the shoulder joint on a weekly basis. It is this level of activity that can cause these issues. An “MOT” of the shoulder involving prehab or rehab is highly important to avoid any further injury and excessive imbalances.
What causes Swimmers Shoulder?
The repetitive nature of the actions in swimming can cause this overuse injury.
Due to the make up of the shoulder joint (Metaphorically: Golf Ball on a TEE) it is an extremely unstable joint. This is caused by insufficient strength in the surrounding muscle groups. The Rotator Cuff group stabilises the shoulder girdle. The group consists of Suprasinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor/Major and Subscapularis. The rotator cuff can suffer from impingement and tendonopathies if the movement mechanics are irritated. This can be a result of over training, fatigue, weakness and tightness.
The use of oversized hand paddles can have a profound effect on the muscle groups. if the balance of strength between specific muscles are not even, issues can arise.
Bursitis and capsulitis and ligament laxity or damage are also common injures. The correct diagnosis is key to treatment parameters and return to sport.
Treatment for Swimmers Shoulder
Treatment depends on the injury itself. The most common swimming stroke is front crawl and therefore the shoulder only rotates internally. As a result doing back crawl may alleviate pain symptoms but will not restore the issue if there are already signs of tendonopathy. Strength and conditioning focused on external rotation and stabilisations will address the imbalance. It will also support the shoulder more effectively during training and racing. This is just one example within the strength and conditioning plan. One or a combination of the following are best treatments for swimmers shoulder.