Swimmer’s Shoulder

The term “swimmer’s shoulder” may refer to any of several different shoulder overuse injuries that frequently occur in swimmers. These injuries typically result from repeated minor trauma rather than major violent trauma. They are characterized by pain in the shoulder joint that may spread upward to the neck region or downward to the arm. Within the ball and socket joint of the shoulder, there is a band of cartilage surrounding the socket to help stabilize the joint. Also surrounding the joint are the joint capsule, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. The major muscle group in the shoulder is called the rotator cuff, which is comprised of four muscles that help keep the joint in place. Overtraining and fatigue of these muscles can lead to impingement or tendonitis, tears, bursitis, and damage to the joint capsule, ligaments, or cartilage. Often, the root cause of this condition is poor stroke technique or weakness in the shoulder. More than a third of elite swimmers experience some type of shoulder pain that impedes or halts their normal training regimen. Treatment of swimmer’s shoulder include administration of pain relief and anti-inflammatory medications, range of motion exercises, joint mobilization, massage, shoulder stretches, and strengthening exercises. If no improvement is seen after six months of rehabilitation therapy, surgery may be necessary.