Q: “I’ve always been a regular swimmer, but have recently increased the amount of sessions I’m doing from a few times a month to several times a week. How can I make sure I don’t get injured?” – Sarah, Solihull

A: Swimming is a great sport, and a very effective way of getting fit or losing weight. It works quite a few muscle groups and gives a full-body workout, and is appropriate for individuals of all levels of fitness. However, as with most forms of physical activity, it does carry an element of risk, and there are are certain parts of the body that are particularly susceptible to injuries caused by swimming.

Most swimming strokes put a lot of stress on the shoulders, leading to a condition known as Swimmers Shoulder. This is the most common injury that swimmers present to their physiotherapists, and occurs when the muscles of the rotator cuff become inflamed. Swimmers Shoulder can be caused by a number of things, including overwork, weakness of the rotator cuff or scapular stabiliser, instability of the glenohumeral, muscle tightness, stiff spine, poor technique, or a combination of several of these factors.

Other swimming injuries can include knee injuries such as medial collateral ligament (more commonly found in people who prefer breaststroke), foot and ankle tendonitis (caused by kicking in the water), elbow stress syndrome, or spinal conditions. However, swimming can also be great for treating some injuries, especially back pain as can relieve a lot of stress on the spine.

As with most conditions, prevention is better than cure. If you’re upping the amount of swimming you’re doing or changing your routine in any way, it’s best to be prepared. You can start by making sure you’re adopting a good stroke technique (you can always ask an instructor if you need confirmation), and it’s a good idea to mix up your strokes in order to avoid overtraining in one particular stroke. It’s also a good idea to incorporate other training techniques into your exercise regime in order to make sure you have a strong core.

Make sure you don’t do too much, too soon, and consult a physiotherapist if you need to. At The Physiotherapy Partners, we provide advice and training plans to clients across the West Midlands and Worcestershire from our clinics in Birmingham, Halesowen, and Kidderminster, and we’d be happy to help you.

If you’ve got a question for our team, just email it to us at ask@thephysiotherapypartners.co.uk.

Photo credit: tefocoto via Compfight cc