10 Common Injuries In Swimming And How To Avoid Them

Swimming is an excellent form of exercise, offering numerous health benefits and a sense of tranquillity in the water. However, even with its gentle reputation, it’s crucial to be aware of the most common swimming injuries that can occur. 

These range from the typical muscle cramp to more severe conditions like swimmer’s shoulder. Understanding these risks and knowing how to prevent them is essential for both novice swimmers and seasoned athletes. 

Curious about how you can stay safe while enjoying every swim? Read on to uncover the top 10 common swimming injuries and discover practical strategies to prevent them.

1. Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps are among the most common swimming injuries, often striking unexpectedly and causing significant discomfort. 

These sudden, involuntary muscle contractions can be attributed to several factors, including dehydration, overexertion, or insufficient warming up. Swimmers typically experience cramps in the calves, feet, or thighs. 

To prevent these painful interruptions, it’s crucial to stay hydrated, adequately warm up before diving in, and maintain balanced electrolyte levels in the body. Regular stretching and proper nutrition also play key roles in minimising the risk of cramps, allowing swimmers to enjoy a cramp-free swim.

2. Shoulder Injury (Swimmer’s Shoulder)

Shoulder injuries, often referred to as “swimmer’s shoulder,” are a prevalent concern among the common swimming injuries. 

This condition primarily arises from repetitive stress and overuse of shoulder muscles during strokes like freestyle or butterfly. Symptoms include pain, inflammation, and a reduced range of motion, making swimming difficult and uncomfortable. 

To prevent shoulder pain or a swimmer’s shoulder injury, it’s crucial to focus on proper stroke technique and incorporate shoulder-strengthening exercises into your routine. Regularly varying your strokes can also help distribute the workload across different muscle groups, reducing the risk of overuse injuries.

3. Neck Pain

Neck pain is another item on the list of common injuries in swimming, especially prevalent among those who engage in backstroke or continuously turn their heads to breathe in freestyle. The repetitive motion can lead to strain and discomfort in the neck muscles and vertebrae. 

To mitigate this, swimmers should focus on maintaining proper alignment and technique. It’s also beneficial to strengthen the neck and upper back muscles through specific exercises, which can enhance endurance and reduce the likelihood of injuries in swimming. 

Adjusting the stroke technique to ensure a more natural head position can also significantly alleviate stress on the neck.

4. Knee Pain (Breaststroker’s Knee)

Knee pain, particularly prevalent in those practising the breaststroke, is known as “Breaststroke Swimmers’ Knee.” This condition arises from the unique kicking motion of the breaststroke, which places significant stress on the knee ligaments and tendons. 

To prevent and manage knee injuries, swimmers should focus on enhancing the flexibility and strength of their leg muscles, particularly those supporting the knee joint. Proper technique in executing the breaststroke kick, ensuring not to over-rotate the knees, is essential. 

Additionally, using a kickboard for drills can help isolate and strengthen the necessary muscles without the added strain of full strokes.

5. Sunburn

Sunburn is a significant risk for outdoor swimmers and is often overlooked among common injuries in swimming. Extended exposure to the sun without adequate protection can lead to severe skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. 

To protect against sunburn, swimmers should apply water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen liberally and frequently, especially during peak sun hours. Wearing UV-protective swimwear and hats can also provide additional protection, ensuring swimmers enjoy their time in the water safely and comfortably.

6. Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a frequent issue among competitive swimmers. It underscores the importance of strategies to treat common swimming injuries effectively. This type of pain often results from improper stroke techniques or overtraining, particularly in strokes that require extensive hyperextension of the back, like the butterfly and breaststroke. 

To prevent lower back pain, swimmers should use a technique that maintains natural spinal alignments, such as engaging core muscles during strokes to support the lower back. 

Incorporating core strengthening and flexibility exercises into their training regimen can also be instrumental in preventing and treating back issues. Balancing intense training with adequate rest and recovery is crucial for managing and mitigating lower back pain for competitive swimmers.

7. Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, is one of the most common issues in swimming, resulting from water remaining in the ear canal, which leads to infection. 

This condition ranks highly among common swimming injuries, particularly affecting those who spend much time in the water. Symptoms include itching, discomfort, and sometimes hearing loss. 

To prevent swimmer’s ear, it’s crucial to dry ears thoroughly after swimming, using ear drops if necessary to help evaporate any trapped water. Wearing earplugs during swims can also be a beneficial preventive measure.

8. Tendonitis

Tendonitis is another common injury among swimmers, resulting from the repetitive motion of swimming strokes, leading to tendon inflammation. This condition is particularly common in the shoulders, wrists, and ankles of swimmers who frequently perform high volumes of training. 

Swimmers should incorporate rest and proper recovery into their training schedules to manage and prevent tendonitis. Stretching and strengthening exercises targeting the affected tendons can also be beneficial. Using proper technique and gradually increasing training intensity can help minimise the risk of tendonitis, allowing swimmers to continue their sport without interruption.

9. Chafing

Chafing is another frequent discomfort swimmers face, particularly when swimwear rubs against the skin during prolonged activities. This irritation is common around the neck, underarm area, and along the thighs. 

To prevent chafing, it’s crucial to choose well-fitted swimwear made from smooth fabrics designed to reduce friction. Applying a water-resistant lubricant to susceptible areas before swimming can also provide a protective barrier and significantly decrease the risk of skin irritation.

10. Foot and Ankle Injuries

Foot and ankle injuries are common among swimmers due to the repetitive motion of kicking, which can strain the joints and ligaments. In more severe cases, these injuries often include sprains, strains, and even fractures. 

To minimise the risk of these injuries, swimmers should focus on strengthening exercises for the feet and ankles and practice flexibility drills to enhance their range of motion. 

Properly warming up before vigorous swimming sessions and cooling down afterwards are also essential to keeping the feet and ankles healthy and injury-free.

Conclusion About The Most Common Swimming Injuries

Awareness and prevention are key to managing the most common injuries in swimming, ensuring that swimmers of all levels can enjoy their time in the water safely and effectively. 

For those looking to improve their technique and safeguard against injuries, SwimHub offers safe and enjoyable swimming classes tailored to all ages and skill levels. Under the guidance of experienced instructors, you can learn proper swimming techniques and conditioning practices, making every swim session enjoyable and safe. 

Join SwimHub today and dive into a healthier, more confident swimming journey!

Frequently Asked Questions About The Most Common Injuries In Swimming

What Are The Most Common Injuries In Competitive Swimming?

Competitive swimmers often face injuries like swimmer’s shoulder, breaststroker’s knee, and tendonitis due to the high intensity and frequency of their training.

How Can I Prevent Swimmer’s Ear?

To prevent swimmer’s ear, ensure to dry your ears thoroughly after swimming, consider using earplugs, and apply over-the-counter drying drops if necessary.

What Should I Do If I Experience Muscle Cramps While Swimming?

If you experience a muscle cramp, try to gently stretch and massage the affected muscle. Exit the water if the cramp persists, and consider hydrating and replenishing electrolytes.

Can Swimming Injuries Be Serious?

While most swimming injuries are manageable with proper care and preventive measures, some, like severe shoulder injuries or chronic conditions, can become serious without appropriate treatment.

Are There Specific Stretches To Help Prevent Swimming Injuries?

Yes, stretches focusing on the shoulders, neck, and legs are beneficial. Dynamic stretches before swimming and static stretches after workouts can help reduce the risk of injuries.

How Often Should I Rest To Avoid Overuse Injuries From Swimming?

The frequency of rest days depends on your training intensity, but generally, including at least one to two rest days per week can help prevent overuse injuries by allowing the body time to recover.