Swim coaches frequently encounter swimmers complaining of shoulder pain in one or both of their shoulders. This pain (and its underlying cause) is often associated with swimming freestyle, and seems to occur most often in the swimmer's anterior shoulder region, but could also occur in other shoulder regions. When reported by swimmers, this pain or injury is often termed swimmer's shoulder (SS). SS and can limit or stop training and hinder performance. If it were possible to employ specific methods and techniques to limit the impact of SS on a swimming program and its athletes, it would be a valuable addition to the overall training plan of that program and its individual swimmers. Maximizing the athlete's availability to train (and to compete) is important to advancement in sport achievement.
Identifying and employing methods to decrease the incidence, duration, or intensity of SS episodes could allow an affected athlete to return to training or competition sooner, or could prevent an athlete from encountering a SS injury. Reducing the occurrence of SS or reducing the time needed to rehabilitate the athlete from that injury if it occurs, could lead to valuable reductions in lost training time for swimmers. Employing several preventative and rehabilitative methods can reduce losses in a swimmer's training availability from shoulder pain or shoulder tissue damage commonly known as SS. These methods to control SS include technique modifications, appropriate considerations in program and training design, appropriate flexibility development and maintenance, and strengthening exercises.
Freestyle or front crawl involves an overhead arm motion repeated many times in a single workout. It is the most often used technique in a swimming workout. Swimmer's shoulder (SS) is a general term for pain in the shoulder area of a swimmer that could be encountered when performing freestyle. In this paper, SS will be limited to an impingement in the subacromial area or other similar dysfunctions in closely related shoulder regions. Overuse is defined as employing a movement of a structure more frequently than that which the structure is prepared. Overtraining is related to this, as it is doing more overall work or work at a higher intensity level than that which the swimmer is prepared; overtraining could result in overuse. The primary causes of shoulder problems in a swimmer are those related to SS. Athletes with this specific shoulder injury can be treated and rehabilitated by utilizing simple methods. The occurrence of SS injuries can be decreased through the utilization of certain methods and techniques.
Swimmers can make changes to their routines that allow them to incorporate these methods to decrease the frequency of SS incidences. Many things could lead to shoulder injuries in a swimmer that are not related specifically to their swimming, or specifically to performing freestyle. Damage from a shoulder injury could be so severe that basic rehabilitative or preventative measures will not be affective. Some athletes will not want to rehabilitate their injury with the intention of returning to swimming, and instead may choose to stop participation. It is generally accepted that an athlete needs to train to improve. If an athlete is injured, and that injury is so severe or painful as to require training activity be limited or stopped, it is unlikely that the athlete will be able to improve as much as if they were not injured. If the injury stops that athlete's participation in the sport, the situation is even worse. Decreasing or preventing injury occurrences is, therefore, an important consideration when dealing with athletes.
Swimmers frequently report that they have shoulder pain, often indicating a case of SS. If the causes of this pain can be addressed, to limit or eliminate the affects of the injury causing the pain, there should be a greater chance for swimmers to train, improve, and compete in their chosen sport.