That lifeguard may be able to save you from drowning, but
he or she probably can't protect you from a swimming injury.
Shoulder overuse injuries in particular are the main culprit
in swimmers - accounting for approximately one-third of all
injuries in competitive swimmers each year. These injuries
are common even in many recreational swimmers who think they
are using the proper freestyle stroke technique.
overview of swimming injuries, published in The Physician
and Sportsmedicine, dispels some widely accepted techniques
used by freestyle swimmers, such as keeping your head up out
of the water. Some tips are offered to help you avoid pain
in the pool:
- Begin each stroke with your hand entering the water finger-
or pinky-first (not thumb-first).
- Continue your stroke downward in a straight line.
- Roll your body equally to each side approximately 45
degrees during strokes.
- Keep your head down in the water for proper spinal alignment
(not "eyes forward" as many coaches have encouraged).
Paddling on a surfboard can help you develop the proper stroke.
If you have existing shoulder pain, have a chiropractor examine
you for rotator-cuff injury, shoulder impingement or other
causes. Core strength (of the back, stomach and upper legs)
and shoulder strength are necessary for proper stroke technique.
Shoulder flexibility is also important. Yoga, abdominal strengthening
exercises, and shoulder strengthening exercises (push-ups,
rowing and overhead presses) can be combined with chest and
shoulder stretches to keep you swimming like a fish.
JN, Gauvin J, Fredericson M. Swimming biomechanics and injury
prevention. The Physician and Sportsmedicine 2003:31(1).
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