Diagnosis of shoulder injury can be difficult and treatment is often frustratingly slow and even ineffective especially if you do not take steps to correct your stroke. The ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder provides for excellent mobility and range of movement, but this is itself a problem because we tend to misuse and overuse the muscles supporting it. These muscles tend to be called ‘the rotator cuff group’ giving rise to terms like ‘rotator cuff injury’. The complexity of the shoulder often means that it is difficult to treat. So we need to concentrate on avoiding this injury. Prevention is better than cure.
The best way to avoid shoulder injury, especially rotator-cuff injury where repetitive awkward pressure on the shoulder causes injury, is to improve your stroke technique. Here are a few tips on how to do it:
- Do not cross over the centre line on entry or in the pull/push phase of your stroke. Reach directly in front of your shoulders and pull back straight down the sides of your body
- Improve your catch, in particular work on developing an ‘early vertical forearm’ action
- Do not apply muscular pressure to the pull and push parts of your stroke until your forearm is vertical. This is especially the case when using paddles which, if used incorrectly, can exacerbate shoulder injury
- Avoid continuous one-sided breathing. Bilateral (or three-stroke) breathing should be your default breathing pattern in order to balance and even out your stroke and avoid one sided muscle overuse
- Do not build up your swimming distances too quickly. Allow time for your shoulder muscles to increase in strength
- Obey your body – if your shoulders hurt, you need to ease off your training or take a rest for a week or so, then only resume with correct stroke technique.