The umbrella term “swimmer’s shoulder” describes a variety of shoulder injuries that can affect competitive swimmers at all levels. Proper technique, training, stretching, and strengthening may help prevent them, according to the review.

“The upper body provides 90% of the propulsive force to move through the water. Due to the amount of force generated and the range of motion required to swim efficiently, the shoulder needs to have perfect mechanics to avoid injury,” says Elizabeth Matzkin, MD, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the literature review, published recently in Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Although swimmers must maintain some shoulder looseness to remain competitive, about 20% of them have hyperlaxicity, known as the ability of the joints to move beyond the normal range of motion. This could increase the likelihood of greater shoulder instability and susceptibility to pain. Shoulder pain affects 91% of competitive swimmers, according to a media release from American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

The most common shoulder injuries affecting swimmers include impingement, scapular dyskinesis, and glenohumeral internal rotation deficits. Signs of shoulder injury among swimmers may include: a dropped elbow during the recovery phase of the freestyle stroke; excessive body roll, which may signify shoulder pain; and drooping of the affected shoulder, per the release.

“Injury prevention is best accomplished by proper training. Most importantly, swimmers need to stretch, especially the posterior shoulder capsule, and avoid muscle imbalance by strengthening both the rotator cuff and the scapular stabilizer muscle groups,” Matzkin advises.

[Source(s): American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, PR Newswire]