Swimming Injuries

Swimming is typically thought of a low contact sport, however, it is the repetitive movements that can lead to injuries. Those that participate in the sport for recreational purposes typically don't become victims of these injuries but when you advance to a more elite level injuries becomes a greater threat.

Shoulder Injuries (aka Swimmers Shoulders)- Swimmer's shoulder is the most common injury found in swimmers mainly because of the shoulder is relatively unstable and the repetitive movement swimmers make. It is estimated that a competitive swimmer makes approximately 1.32 million strokes per arm per year. Shoulder injuries are most commonly found in those that mainly swim freestylers, backstrokers, and butterflyers. The extreme use and muscle imbalance leads to soreness and inflammation of the rotator cuff causes chronic pain.
  • Ice
  • Heat
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory (Advil, Ibuprofen etc.)
  • Physical Therapy (muscle strengthening exercises)

Knee Injuries The second most common injury among competitive swimmers. Typically this injury affects breaststrokers but can really affect anyone. However, it is due to the forceful breaststroke kick that puts the pressure onto the knee causing inflammation in the joint. When pressure is applied pain is found along the patellar ligament.
  • Rest
  • Activity modification
  • Proper warm-up
  • Physical Therapy
for acute symptoms
  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory (Advil, Ibuprofen etc.)
*Local corticosteroid injections should be used with caution


Less Common Injuries

Ankle Injuries Flexibility in the ankles is ideal for swimming to help gain an extra range of movement. Extensor tendentious can form around the ankle the pain affects the tendons during flexion and extension.
  • Ice
  • Rest
  • Heat
*Local corticosteroid injections should be used with caution

Elbow Injuries The elbow injuries are typically found in butterflyers, breaststrokers, and occasionally freestylers due to the 'elbow up pull.' Butterfly and breaststroke are strokes in which the swimmers are constantly pushing themselves out of the water. This repetitive movement causes lateral epicondylitis or more commonly known as tennis elbow.
  • Ice
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (Advil, Ibuprofen, etc.)
  • Physical Therapy
  • Stroke alteration


Job Overview: What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a health care specialty involved with evaluating, diagnosing, and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal system. The ultimate goal of physical therapy is to restore maximal functional independence to each individual patient.

So what exactly IS a physical therapist?

Physical therapists are licensed professionals who work with people that have sustained disabilities, impairments, or limitations in their overall physical function as a result of disease, injury or pathological processes. Physical therapists examine, evaluate, diagnose, develop treatment plans and provide prognosis for each patient on an individual basis. They use exercise, mobilization, manipulation, heat, cold, and electrical stimulation to restore function, improve mobility, and decrease pain in order to re-establish a patient’s prior functional level.



Physical Therapy Assistant

A physical therapy assistant provides skill-based assistance to support the work of the physical therapist for whom they work. A PT assistant often works independently and interdependently within the scope of practice where they are employed, assisting physical therapists to provide quality services.

Physical Therapy Aide

A physical therapy aide helps to ensure that therapy sessions go smoothly. They bring the patient to the therapist, fetch and retrieve equipment for the patient and organize supplies and sometimes maintaining paperwork related to patient care.

Tools of the Trade

Rehabilitation strategies often involve specific exercises to stretch and strengthen muscles as well as to improve posture, balance, and endurance. While exercises are common, utilization of exercise, electricity, cold, heat and massage are used as well.
Common exercises

Balance exercises

specific activities that help build lower extremity (or leg) muscle strength as well as improve your vestibular system, the organ associated with balance perception.

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Endurance exercises

Endurance exercises include any activity that increase heart rate and respiratory rate. This includes walking, jogging, running, biking, rope jumping, and many others. Over time these activities improve the health of the lungs, heart, and blood vessels. Most importantly however, endurance exercises can also delay or prevent many diseases including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.

Post-op Exercises

Exercising plays an important role in regaining function and strength after undergoing an operation. A physical therapist will give the patient exercises that can be performed while in the hospital or at home.

Strengthening exercises

Increasing muscle strength is often a priority in recovering from a multitude of injury and disease. Learn various types of exercises to get the results you want.
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Stretching exercises

Stretching exercises are a good way to prevent injury. A physical therapist will teach a patietnt simple stretches that can be done to increase their range of motion.

Use of heat

Physical therapists wrap moist hot packs in several layers of towels and apply it to the area that needs treatment. The heat relaxes tight muscles causing tissues to relax. This decreases pain caused by muscle tension or spasms. It also increases circulation to the area. Patients with muscle strains, spasms, or arthritis often benefit from treatment with moist hot packs.

Use of cold

Used to treat areas of pain and inflammation. Cold packs are wrapped in towels and placed on the treatment area. The cold temperature causes vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in the area. This decreases the inflammation in the area and by decreasing inflammation, pain and swelling are decreased. which in turn decreases pain. Management with ice is the first line of treatment in acute injury.

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Use of electrical stimulation

Electrical stimulation uses an electrical current to cause a single muscle or a group of muscles to contract. Contracting the muscle through electrical stimulation helps to strengthen the muscle as well as promote blood flow to the area.

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Physical Therapist
Physical therapists are licensed health care professionals with a master’s or doctorate degree in physical therapy. They must earn a degree before they can practice in any state. State regulations may vary.

Physical Therapist Assistants
Physical therapy assistants must also complete a certification program. Education requirements fall short of actual physical therapy degree work, but prepare students to assist in situations requiring skill and knowledge. In some cases the PTA works independently of the therapist.

Physical Therapy Aides
PT aides have no certification requirements, but academic programs are available and recommended. A PT aide will learn to help patients move from wheelchair to bed, offer limited assistance in therapy sessions, and maintain documentation and client paperwork.

Where Do Physical Therapists Work?
One of the benefits of being a physical therapist is the variety of job settings available. The hospital setting is one of the more common settings, but within the hospital there are specialty areas that phsical therapists can pursue such as acute care, orthopedic, and geriatrics. Other places include outpatient clinics, rehabilitation hospitals, etc.

Physical therapy as an employment field is expected to grow faster than average according to the bls.gov. Highest annual earnings for the various levels break down like this:
Physical Therapist: $75,000 annually
PT Assistant: $52,000 annually
PT Aide: $33,000 annually