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Thread: knee problems due to breastroke

  1. #1
    Participating Member
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    Jan 2006

    Question knee problems due to breastroke

    I'm new to the forums here, but I'm having an issue that I was wondering if any other swimmers had come across/have tips for...

    I've been swimming since I was very young, used to swim on teams but don't anymore. Now, I just swim laps as a also helps me to relax and take my mind off things. Throughout my years of swimming, I never had any sport-related injuries that affected my swimming...until recently. This past summer, I began having pain in my knee when swimming, particularly when swimming breaststroke. I went in to see a physical therapist, who determined that the problem was patellar tracking disorder...basically, my kneecap in my right knee doesn't always move quite smootly and straight in the socket. She thought it was probably caused by the breastroke kick. I've been doing physical therapy exercises to strengthen my inner thigh muscles, some stretching, etc. It's helped, but I still haven't been able to get back to where I was before I began having problems.

    My question is, has anyone else had a problem similar to this, and what's your advice? Currently, I only swim freestyle and backstroke during my workouts, with some breastroke every once in a while. I don't compete, or plan to ever again, really, but I want to be able to continue swimming laps without making my knee worse (I'm currently in college, by the way). I usually swim between 2000 and 2500 meters during a typical workout lasting about an hour...I don't swim extremely fast, but I like to be able to feel like I'm really using my muscles and getting a good workout.

    Any advice is appreciated...I've been searching for information on this for a while now, and haven't had much luck, so I thought I'd try asking here...thanks!

  2. #2
    Active Member
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    Jun 2003
    Roeland Park, KS

    Knee problems are very common with breaststoke swimmers. Often the underlaying causes are misdiagnosed, unless you see a sport medicine person who has experience with swimming/training related injuries.

    I have knee problems from years of over training (swimming AAU, high school, college and now masters). After seeing several doctors (in college and beyond), I finally got a more believable diagnosis that explained all the symptoms. Most sports knee injuries are from single-event trama and will damage the patella, so that is what the look at first. Swimming injuries are from long-term overuse and may not directly impact the patella. Instead, you may have elongated the tendon and ligaments on the interior of your knees. The elongation will not hold the knee together, creating delocalized issues.

    There are some good exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee, but the best long term solution for me has been to reduce (but not eliminate) the amount of breaststroke in workouts. I still successfully compete in breaststoke events with limited knee pain. At least one doctor suggested surgery to shorten the tendons/ligaments, but I would rather stop swimming breastroke altogether before having the surgery.

    Bottomline: See a Sport Medicine doctor with experience with swimming injuries to confirm your initial diagnoses.

    Anthony Thompson, Missouri Valley Masters (Kansas City)

  3. #3
    Very Active Member Seagurl51's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    When I hurt my knee a few years ago I had the same problem. Everytime I bent my knee my patella was coming up and to the side rather than straight up...obviously a problem for breaststroke. Squats were my main exercise that helped get the muscles and tendons around my knee strong enough to keep my patella on a straight path. Eventually I started adding in more and more breaststroke and now I can swim it with no pain. If you really like breaststroke I would say keep doing it. The muscles in your knees that you need for the kick will eventually develop and function properly.

    Doctors are always good too. Good Luck!

  4. #4
    Very Active Member geochuck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Vancouver British Columbia Canada
    Most breaststrokers in the past had knee problems I don't know about now the newer style breaststroke kick should change that.
    Last edited by geochuck; January 12th, 2006 at 06:32 PM.
    Keep it simple George Park
    Swimsuit Sale

  5. #5
    Very Active Member Allen Stark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    I think knees to a breaststroker are like elbows to a pitcher. You are putting strain on a joint in a direction it was not designed to take. As I do compete breaststroke I am very careful with my knees. I warm up swimming breaststroke very slowly and slowly build up to full speed. I almost never swim just kick as that increases the strain on the knees.I do a lot of stationary bike yo strengthen the muscles. If I feel any pain swimming breaststroke I stop breaststroke kick for the day,put on my fins and finish the set breaststroke pull,dolphin kick,and ice my knees after workout.(At least thats what I try to do,sometimes I'm just too stubborn/stupid to stop.)
    "To strive,to seek,to find,and not to yield" Tennyson

  6. #6
    Active Member Rowdy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Henrietta, NY
    I am beginning to really dig the breaststroke (formerly a backstroke fiend) and I have some pain in my knee (on the inside and slightly to the back). I also love to kick (anything it doesn't matter).

    So, my question is what other things do you do to strengthen you knees to help with the strain and pain associated with breaststroke? I like the bike, but when I do squats my knee hurts.

  7. #7
    Very Active Member nkfrench's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Fort Worth, TX
    I have a bad knee (surgically repaired/reconstructed from a dislocation with 3 ligament tears 15 years ago). The injuries weren't the worst on the medial areas most stressed by the breaststroke kick but it is still painful to try to do the kick for even 25 yds.

    I always put on fins and use a dolphin kick to do breaststroke in practice. You can "round out" the kick if it feels OK. It might take some getting used to if you've never tried it - feels great when you get the rhythm.

  8. #8
    Very Active Member breastroker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Knee tracking problems are usually caused by squats or kicking technique. You should be doing lots of toe lifts and anything a trainer prescribes to strengthen the muscles around the knee.

    A slow warm up and lots of stretching are the key to swimming breaststroke. And keep doing those physical therapy exercises!
    It's not how fast you swim, it's how fast you slow down.

    For competition breaststroke information visit:

  9. #9
    Very Active Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    I find riding a bike at the gym helps keep my knees from hurting.
    When I swim, my knees always hurt on the first 50 of breaststroke. Usually, I am okay after the first 50. If they continue to bother me, I skip breaststroke that day. I compete in breaststroke so I try to kick regularly, but I listen to my body. I am 64 and plan to have many more years of breaststroke.

  10. #10
    Very Active Member Xenadiva's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    New York

    "New" breaststroke kick

    Hey.... What is the "new" breaststroke kick? I'm now going through physical therapy for my knee for the patella issue. The therapist is taping the knee right now to promote better tracking. If your knees are bothering you and you have medical insurance I would recomend going to an oropedist right away and get them to prescribe physical therapy. I like physical therapy and contantly ask them all sorts of questions so by the time I leave I know exactly what excersises work what muscles and I know how to help the issue. CHO-Pat makes some wonderfull braces. I just got the "original knee strap". I haven't worn it enough to have an opinion yet but I've used a cho-pat strap for a tendon problem in my arm and it help tremdously. The "original knee strap" is suppose to take the stress off the tendon.. read all about it....

  11. #11
    Very Fetching Rump SwimStud's Avatar
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    Oct 2006
    Out the pool
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    Re: knee problems due to breastroke

    Curious to hear more of the new style kick problems yet...and don't want any!!
    Although I think I tweaked my ankle on a push off the other night...then I think I tweaked it back the other way in the shower.


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