How to Prevent Swimmer's Shoulder | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

How to Prevent Swimmer's Shoulder

August 31, 2012 | Gary Mullen

Must See Sports Injuries Videos

Too often, shoulder injuries slow, interrupt or end promising swimming careers. An estimated 80 percent of swimmers suffer from shoulder pain at some point in their careers (McMaster, 1993). However, there are ways swimmers can reduce their likelihood of falling victim to this sport-specific injury.

Swimmers perform 16 times more overhead movements than other athletes (Wilk, 2008). The enormous volume of overhead motion causes stress and strain to accumulate at the swimmer’s shoulders. It is important to understand that the condition known as swimmer's shoulder does not arise from too many strokes, but from too many incorrect strokes.

Swimmer’s shoulder symptoms include pain and inflammation. In an effort to alleviate the pain, a number of muscles compensate for the injury. However, these compensations actually cause greater strain on the body, becoming the main cause of pain and impairing muscle function (Stocker 1996).

Luckily, swimmers can rectify this problem by improving muscle length, strength and timing (LST) around the shoulder.

Muscle Length

After a swimmer suffers a shoulder injury, a number of muscles begin compensating for the injury, including the upper trapezius, levator scapulae, infraspinatus and pectoralis.

As shown below, swimmers can increase the length of these muscles by performing self-myofascial release with a tennis ball. Lie on the ball in the specified location for about two minutes. A bit of discomfort is expected, but you should not feel pain.

Muscle Strength

Strengthening your shoulders is one of the best ways to prevent future shoulder injuries. Unfortunately, too many swimmers are under the false impression that simple band exercises are enough. Exercises for the rotator cuff muscles help, but it's also critical to focus on shoulder stability by strengthening the muscles around the shoulder blade itself. This prevents secondary shoulder impingement, which is the most common cause of swimmer's shoulder.

Check out three shoulder exercises you can incorporate into your training to prevent injury.

Muscle Timing

Since the shoulders synchronize the neck, spine and hips, shoulder health relies on the joints working together. Reduce your risk of injury and fatigue by teaching your joints to perform their respective roles.

Remember that proper swimming technique is the best way to prevent injury. In addition, to recover from a shoulder injury, swimmers must improve muscle length, strength and timing. If you follow this plan, you'll have the strongest shoulders on any pool deck.


McMaster WC, Troup J. "A survey of interfering shoulder pain in United States competitive swimmers." Am J Sports Med. 1993; 21:67-70.

Stocker, D., Pink, M., & Jobe, F. W. "Comparison of shoulder injury in collegiate and masters level swimmers." In J. P. Troup, A. P. Hollander, D. Strasse, S. W. Trappe, J. M. Cappaert, & T. A. Trappe (Eds.), Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming VII. 1996; (pp. 90-95). London: E & FN Spon.

Wilk, KE, Reinold, MM, Andrews JR. The Athlete's Shoulder. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2008

G. John Mullen
- G. John Mullen received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California, where he served as a clinical research assistant investigating adolescent...
G. John Mullen
- G. John Mullen received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California, where he served as a clinical research assistant investigating adolescent...
Must See
Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills
Views: 9,798,306
NFL Wide Receiver Randall Cobb Outworks Everyone
Views: 25,271,551
How to Perform the Euro Step With Iman Shumpert
Views: 83,227

Featured Videos

Dwight Howard Ab Workout Views: 62,672
John Wall Elbow-to-Elbow Shooting Drill Views: 186,618
Elite Performance with Mike Boyle: Build Explosive Power With Contrast Training Views: 17,880
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Colby Lewis's Post-Game Band Splitter Routine
Views: 8,349,427
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 4,006,048
Allyson Felix Explains How To Choose a Coach
Views: 8,690,635
Charging Ground Balls With Skip Schumaker
Views: 29,529
Antonio Brown Juggles 3 Footballs
Views: 1,176,187

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

Introduction If you have clocked enough hours under the bar, you know that lower back injuries can be a frustrating and derailing part of the strength...

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

How to Bench Press With a Shoulder Injury

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

5 Exercises to Prevent ACL Tears

Why Strengthening This Muscle May Fix Knee Pain

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

What You Need to Know About Tiger Woods' Back Injury

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

How to Prevent Injuries With 3 Yoga Poses

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

Bulletproof Your Body with 5 Easy Injury Prevention Exercises

The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

How to Train With Running Blisters

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

Tips for Working Out With a Hand or Arm Injury

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

3 Ways to Prevent the Most Common Hockey Injury

3 Causes of Recurring Hamstring Injuries

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises