Swimming Technique to Prevent Swimmers Shoulder

Swimming with correct technique is vital to prevent swimmers shoulder. In freestyle and butterfly, the two stokes most linked to the development of swimmer’s shoulder, the swimmer should aim to adopt a technique is not only efficient and fast but also unloads the rotator cuff muscles as much as possible.  See below for a quick recap of the rotator cuff muscles.

Freestyle (front crawl) and butterfly strokes are thought to be the main culprits in the devolvement of swimmer’s shoulder as they involve the classic overhead movement in the recovery phase of the stroke which can potentially lead to subacromial impingement type symptoms and the extended arm in the catch phase leading to mircotrauma of the cuff.

To help reduce the potential of this swimming technique can be adopted during front crawl:

  • Swimming with body roll. As your arm enters roll almost on to your side to about 80-85 degrees. The reduces the amount of external rotation and extension needed when the opposite arm is recovering which can help reduce the likely hood of impingement.
  • High elbow recovery. A high elbow recovery with the recovering hand coming close to the body can by reducing the length of the lever, reduce the load through the rotator cuff. However, it is important that a high elbow recovery is only used in combination with a good body roll as if the swimmer attempt to recover with a high elbow when swimming flat this leads to lots of extension as well as abduction of the humerus which could lead to increased risk of impingement.
  • Catch with high elbow. As the swimmers hand enters and they begin to pull their hand through the water (the catch) they should bend their elbow slightly and they should try and keep the elbow higher than the hand during the catch phase.

The picture bellow shows a swimmer swimming with a high elbow and good body roll.

Swimmers should also make sure they swim backstroke in training even if they are front crawl specialists or triathlete as it helps balance out all the free crawl by using different muscle groups.

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