View Full Version : Preventing Shoulder Injuries

March 2nd, 2011, 11:23 AM
Shoulder injuries are way to common in swimming and have hindered the careers of many talented athletes that have the potential to swim at elite levels. The most important factor in maximizing ones potential is staying injury free. It doesn’t matter how hard an athlete trains in the pool or in the gym, if they are injured they are not operating at 100%. This means, keeping the shoulders healthy is the #1 priority.
On many occasions a swimmer will wait until he or she has a shoulder injury and then begin physical therapy. This is obviously not a very proactive approach. I prefer to “prehab” instead of waiting for the injury to happen and then having to rehab it. The best time to start a program for shoulder stability is when the shoulder is still healthy!

Now that the importance of “prehabing” has been established we can take a look at the training approach we have. One of the main reasons injuries happen is lack of shoulder stability. Specifically, the shoulder is not stable in the overhead position, and therefore most vunerable. If the shoulder is not strong and stable in the overhead position it most likely will result in inflammation, tendinitis, and much more if the problem continues to progress. Traditional methods have us doing isolated rotator cuff exercises with the arm locked at the side of the body (see figure 1A). One issue with this exercise is that it isolates the rotator cuff and this muscle is never isolated by itself in swimming. It works in conjunction with many other muscles to provide stability in the shoulder joint. The second issue is swimmers need to be stable through multiple ranges of motion and most importantly in the overhead position since this is where the problem occurs. Clearly this exercise and other isolated rotator cuff exercises do not fulfill these requirements.

Here is one of our favorite exercises that we use to provide stability through multiple ranges of motion (see figure 1B). As you can see we use the flexibar which gives a vibratory stimulus and move it through multiple planes of motion.

This is just an example of the many exercises that can be performed to work on stability in multple ranges of motion.