Before we being Id like to introduce myself, my name is Corinne Allmark, I swam competitively from the age of 7 until roughly 20, competing for Club, Squad and English County Lancashire, as well as competing at the National age groups in different events of breaststroke, butterfly and Individual medley.
Towards the end of my competing career I began coaching and due to the level I has competed at was quickly coaching young swimmers also on the path to nationals and some even international.
As a physio my history in swimming has massively helped when it comes to helping and assisting patients that swim, increasing the understanding of what is required from your bodies as well as how you move through the water. As a coach I always enjoyed the technique side of swimming and making your stroke as efficient as possible. To combine that with physiotherapy only makes sense.
Here we are going to cover a few areas of swimming that could potentially cause injury and what to consider implementing to avoid causing said injury.
With the shoulder being a ball and socket joint it requires soft tissues to keep the ball in the cup. Most of you may have heard of the rotator cuff muscles. This group is made up of 4 muscles that each hold the shoulder from different points with the aim to hold it in the centre of the joint so it can rotate smoothly. If any of these muscles get injured or compromised it will effect the efficiency of the shoulder, therefore reducing the power you are able to produce.
To assist your rotator cuff muscles we also require the muscles around your neck, back and ribs to help maintain stability of your shoulder blade. This is where the ground strength of your shoulder comes from. If you have noticed your shoulder blades stick out quite bit this could mean you are not as strong as you could be in your shoulders.
Having stability of your shoulder blade also takes pressure off the ball and socket joint as it helps to open up the space at the top of your shoulder to prevent any muscles getting trapped.
Provided this is working well we should have control of movement. For this I’m talking about how your shoulder, shoulder blade and spine all work together. To allow you to get full power and good purchase on the water you want this to work together and the correct muscles to kick in at the correct time. Something we can see in a lot of over head athletes is that your upper trapezius muscle and lats can sometimes over work and cause this smooth movement pattern to become slightly out of sync, which has a knock on effect on your shoulder performance.
Flexibility is another component that will assist you to prevent injuries, if you consider the movements we require to put our bodies through when swimming they are not the most normal movements we would do on a daily basis, wether that be fly arms or breaststroke kick, to achieve these well you need to be supple in your back, shoulders and hips. Doing regular stretches both as a warm up and cool down are a good way to prepare your muscles and joints for what you require of them as well as preventing injury.
Then something that tends to be forgotten about, as we rely on the water to hold us up, but core control and proprioception is huge in swimming, to be able to control where your body is and how you are moving through the water can have a massive impact on your technique and ability to pull yourself easily through the water.
Swimming itself puts a lot of stress and demand on your shoulders and this can be increased with poor technique
4 main common errors are:
* Over rotation on arm entry into the water/thumb first entry, this closes down the gap at the front of your shoulder and can trap muscle tendons.
* Over reaching on entry, where you cross over the centre line again compressing the space at the top/front of your shoulder and neck along with over stretching your back.
* Reaching too deeply to aim to catch the water, this again can over stretch and put a lot of pressure on the shoulder joint.
* As does pulling through the water with a straight arm. This increases the load on the shoulder and is not only in-efficient but again increases the stress you are putting your shoulder through.
Correct technique isn’t only down to your coach, this is where that awareness of how you are moving yourself comes in very handy. If you know and understand what you are doing it is much easier to correct.
If you are still unsure, try filming yourself or getting a friend to watch how you move.
If you feel an assessment is required to ensure your shoulders are moving efficiently please give us a shout. In this we will look at your range and control of movement.
Then using results from those movements and tests we are then as physios able to develop a treatment plan to either prevent any injury or potential issues along with reduce the risk of future problems. If there is already an injury a combination of hands on treatment and exercises would be ideal to guide recovery and return to full performance.
As a physio and one who loves sports I don’t want you to be away from your sports for long or even at all, prevention of injuries is what is best but isn’t always the way it works, so if an injury was to occur getting it sorted early will prevent you from being out of action for too long.
To assist what you do in the pool doing land based training including resistance and core exercises can massively assist your development and progression with your training.
Like already mentioned knowledge and awareness of how you hold yourself and how you move both in and out of the water can help prevent injury and improve knowledge of technique.
Regular stretches and foam rolling helps to reduce tension in the muscles.
Anything further you can give us a call. It doesn’t have to be an injury picked up in the pool but anything you think we can help with.
Corinne Ropp,Cht, has enjoyed a career in hypnotherapy and life engineering over the past 18 years. Her training in hypnotherapy and behavioral science, as well as coaching, has allowed her to be of service to thousands locally and internationally.