When I first began my endurance training in 1998, it involved running and only running. I did this for many years and to date, have completed 9 marathons. Over time, however, I wanted to try something different. One day as I was watching the Kona Ironman and hearing and seeing all of the inspiring stories, I decided this was going to be my new challenge.  It just so happened that Omaha was going to host its first Olympic distance triathlon in August, 2010. Great, how convenient, but there was a problem… I couldn’t swim. How am I going to swim .9 miles in 6 months???  I only had one solution- I humbly signed up for an adult beginners swim class at the YMCA.  I’m not a fan of the water, but its a necessary evil (in my opinion) for the sport of triathlon. I wasn’t convinced an old dog could learn new tricks and got frustrated many times having to swim with people in my lane, gasp for breath, hang onto the wall for dear life, sink to the bottom, and suck in water. Luckily, I had some great coaches along the way and 6 months later was able to complete that Omaha olympic distance triathlon and have been hooked ever since.  I continue to make progress with my swimming and seem to have found my niche with the masters swim group at Lifetime Fitness and can now say, I’m a proficient swimmer and have mustered my way thru 2 Ironman competitions and various other distances including 5 1/2 Ironman distances as well.  I typically swim 2-3x per week and average about 2500 meters currently which led me to start thinking about different injuries that may occur with swimming.

Swimming doesn’t lend itself to the same injuries as high-impact sports, but it does have potential for injury due to  poor stroke mechanics and/or overuse injuries. Primarily, pain in the shoulder is a common complaint.  The shoulder is a highly complicated joint that relies heavily on many different muscle groups to maintain stability, proper motion, and pain free function.  The repetitious overhead activity of swimming can fatigue these muscles resulting in instability of the shoulder joint and cause pain–particularly with the addition of poor stroke mechanics. It is highly important to work on a comprehensive program to develop strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility of the muscles. This is a great video to maintain a healthy shoulder and improve your performance in the water!

The second most common injury reported in competitive swimmers is knee pain with a greater incidence in breast stroke swimmers over other swimming techniques. Again, this is most primarily an overuse injury causing medial knee pain due to the repetitive forces on the knee, however, the medial knee pain could also be caused from incorrect kicking patterns and/or quadricep muscle imbalances in strength, endurance, and flexibility predisposing swimmers to knee tracking issues. The best advice is to follow up with a professional for possible underwater videotaping of your stroke mechanics and to follow up with a physical therapist (of course. :-)) to determine any muscle strength, flexibility or patellar tracking issues.

As much as I find swimming as a necessary evil, I’m still glad and thankful that I CAN swim.