Friday, February 01, 2013

The Four Classic Causes Of Shoulder Pain And Injury In Swimming

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Many masters swimmers think that living with some level of shoulder pain is "normal" in swimming. Many even believe that shoulder injury is just a fact of life for serious swimmers. Fortunately with a modern understand of bio-mechanics we know that's not the case, with a good stroke technique any swimmer should be able to remain pain and injury free even when training very hard.

If you suffer from any shoulder pain or soreness during or after swimming, or even have a full blown shoulder injury, check your stroke for the four classic causes of shoulder pain and injury:

1. Thumb First Entry Into The Water

Entering thumb first with the palm facing outwards used to be taught as a smoother hand entry into the water in many parts of the world but it internally rotates the shoulder placing a lot of stress on the joint. This is the most common cause of shoulder injury in swimming and should be avoided like the plague:

Instead of entering thumb first, enter fingertips first with the hand facing downwards, this keeps the shoulder neutral and sets you up perfectly for a great catch and pull through to follow.

2. Stroke Crossover

Crossing the centre line in front of the head places stress on the shoulder joint, the pain often being felt along the outside or back of the shoulder (##Paul confirm?##). Work on improving your posture and awareness of your lead hand (even when breathing) to remove this common stroke flaw:

Such a crossover combined with a thumb first hand entry is particularly deadly and a full shoulder injury surely lies in wait.

3. Forceful Push Downwards During The Catch

This is a classic Arnie stroke flaw and involves pushing downwards powerfully on the water at full reach with a very straight arm:

This can feel deceptively like a good catch because of the feeling of force on the palm of the hand but unfortunately it only lifts you up at the front and sinks your legs downwards. It also places a large stress on your shoulder joint which can easily lead to pain and inflammation  Work on developing your catch so you press the water backwards, not downwards.

4. Pulling Through With A Straight Arm
(especially pulling wide or crossing the centre line under the body)

This can be quite a hard one to diagnose from the pool deck so coaches study your swimmer carefully as they swim towards you at the end of the pool. However it is easily spotted with underwater video analysis:

A straight pull through places a lot of load on the shoulder joint. Pulling wide tends to cause internal pain while crossing under the body with the arm over-stretches the outside and rear of the shoulder. #paul confirm#.

Work on 'Bending It Like Becky' - i.e. bending the elbow under the body, bringing the hand directly under the shoulder.

If you suffer from shoulder pain or injury from swimming, there's almost certainly a flaw in your stroke technique causing the problem. If you suffer from any pain at all during or after swimming then take immediate action to correct your stroke technique - once developed full blown shoulder injuries are extremely frustrating and can take a long time to overcome.

Swim Smooth!

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