Tips & Training

Helping Prevent Shoulder Injuries

10/11/2011

By Ian McMahan, MA, ATC, PES

Swimmers, like athletes who throw a lot, put a great deal of stress on their shoulders with thousands of yards in the pool each day. In fact, more shoulder injuries are reported among swimmers than pitchers in baseball.

 

Shoulder injuries are common among swimmers because a swimmer might use the shoulder more than 2000 times in a single swim workout of 5-8 miles. Additionally, the shoulders are your body’s engine in the water, providing nearly 90% of a swimmer’s forward motion.

 

Can these injuries be prevented?

 

No amount of exercise can ever guarantee staying injury-free, but keeping the important muscles of the shoulder strong can greatly decrease the chances of problems in the future. Too much trauma to these critical areas of the shoulder joint can result in shoulder pain, and in the worst case, structural damage.

 

How do you stay in the water and swim injury free?

 

The following shoulder exercises, developed and used by physical therapist Lisa Giannone, have been used successfully with recreational and elite swimmers. These exercises, while they make look simple and familiar, are very effective in isolating the following shoulder muscles:

 

Rotator cuff – This complex of four muscles and their tendons helps to keep shoulder joint stable during complex movements like swimming.

Shoulder blade muscles – The shoulder blade is the foundation of the shoulder joint and is responsible for helping move the arm overhead.

 

Rotator Cuff-Internal Rotation

 

 

• Use a section of low resistance elastic bands for resistance.
• Place a rolled up towel underneath the elbow.
• Keeping elbow at side, rotate hand in so that arm is straight out from body. Hold position until front of shoulder/chest starts to fatigue and burn.
• Try 10 repetitions of small rotations in and out. Repeat until fully fatigued. Rest and repeat for total of 3-4 sets.

 


Rotator Cuff-External Rotation

 

 

• Use a section of low resistance elastic bands for resistance.
• Place a rolled up towel underneath the elbow.
• Keeping elbow at side rotate hand out so that arm is straight out from body. Hold position until back of shoulder starts to fatigue and burn.
• Try 10 repetitions of small rotations in and out. Repeat until fully fatigued. Rest and repeat for total of 3-4 sets.

 


Shoulder Blade Squeeze

 


 

• Lie face down on bed or exercise mat
• Pull shoulder blades down as if trying to reach hands toward feet.
• Bring shoulder blades back and together, lifting hands just off of floor. You should feel fatigue between shoulder blades.
• Hold for 5 seconds, repeat for total of 10-15 repetitions. 3-4 sets 

 

Summary

  • It is very important that these exercises are felt in the indicated areas so that the correct muscles are being used.
  • The exercises should be taken to the point where the muscles burn and reach full fatigue.
  • Try to repeat the exercises three days a week with a day in between.

 

Ian McMahan, MA, ATC, PES is the Head Athletic Trainer at Active Care Physical Therapy in San Francisco, Calif. Send him and Lisa Giannone questions: ian@activecare.net, lisa@activecare.net .


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