The Synchronized Swimmer’s Shoulder: How to Prevent Shoulder Injuries
Commonly, shoulder injuries can occur with the synchronize swimmer. The most common presentation is pain in the front of the shoulder when the arm is above 90 degrees (raised above head). The pain often feels sharp in the front of the shoulder and referral pain (deep ache) down the arm. At times the athlete can describe the pain as “catching.” This presentation is typically diagnosed as a rotator cuff (commonly the supraspinatus muscle) impingement. The impingement occurs as the rotator cuff tendons become irritated and inflamed as they pass through the subacromial space. This space is small so if the tendon is inflamed an impingement could occur.
Causes of impingement:
- Repetitive overhead activity
- Overtraining, especially in overhead trainingEx) swim free style, overhead weight training, sculling training, and therefore overloading the rotator cuff muscles.
Treatment of Impingement:
- Assessment to determine the exact cause
- Ice to the shoulder and rest if needed
- Soft tissue therapy (ART – Active Release Technique) and stretches are given to the tight rotator cuff muscles.
- Exercises to strengthen areas of weakness from assessment.
Prevention: Preventing the injury is ideal. If the athlete has had history of shoulder injuries an assessment is key to prevent future injuries. Some ways to prevent shoulder injuries are:
- Warm up before activity
- Work on posture: shoulder blades back and down. Rounded shoulders forward can make the shoulder vulnerable to injury
- Scapular stabilization exercises
- Strengthen rotator cuff muscles