Professional Journal of Sports Medicine looked at injury rates

Professional Swimmer Injury StatisticsSwimming is a sport that combines upper and lower body strength exercises with cardio training in water and sometimes land environments. There are four strokes in competitive swimming: freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke. With extensive training comes injury. Competitive swimmers are more inclined to musculoskeletal injuries of the upper limb, knee, spine, and the occasional ear infection  than the casual swimmer.

Competitive swimming injuries are extremely common. A study of the National Collegiate Athletic Association or NCAA in 2009 by Wolf et al in the American Journal of Sports Medicine looked at injury rates for the men’s and women’s swim teams at the University of Iowa from 2002-2007. “There were 90 injuries sustained by 32 of 44 male swimmers (72.7%), while 76 injuries occurred in 35 of 50 female swimmers (70.

0%). In this study the average number of exposures per year was estimated at 4526 for men and 4651 for women.” With an injury rate of 4 injuries per 1000 hours of training, for men and 3.78 injuries per 1000 hours of training for women. Non-freestyle swimmers showed a 33% greater risk of injury than freestyle swimmers.

ShoulderThe shoulder and upper arm accounted for 31% of male swimmer injuries and 36% for female swimmers. Shoulder pain is the most frequent injury among swimmers. A recent study showed that “91% of elite swimmers age 13 to 25 reported at least one episode of shoulder pain.

Swimmer’s Shoulder is the most commonly affected joint by swimming injuries or overuse.” Overuse comes with wearing of the muscle resulting in the inability to follow proper stroke techniques. Slight injuries and trauma can cause shoulder pain and lead to tendonitis. Shoulder injuries may include rotator cuff impingement, which means pressure on the rotator cuff from part of the shoulder blade as the arm is lifted.

Another injury is known as biceps tendonitis, an inflammation of the bicep tendon. Overusing a muscle can cause shoulder instability, in which the surrounding structures of the shoulder joint do not work to maintain the ball within its socket. Swimmers at an olympic level can swim up to 9 miles per day equalling to more than 2500 shoulder revolutions. The shoulder, unfortunately, is an unstable joint; therefore, muscle forces are important for maintaining stability, proper motion, and painless function. This type of training and rotation strength in swimmers can lead to an imbalance and reduce stability. Professional female swimmers are at a greater risk of developing an injury by overuse.

Female swimmers, on average, have shorter arm strokes than male swimmers, and so are more likely to suffer an overused muscle due to more arm revolutions per lap. Knee and SpineThe knee is the second-most-reported source of pain in competitive swimmers. A greater incidence and strain injuries of the knee and hip pain occurs in breaststroke swimmers than in other swimming techniques. According to one study, 86% of competitive breaststroke swimmers had at least one episode of knee pain related to swimming breaststroke. Essentially not kicking properly is often the cause of  knee pain.

They found thickened and tender medial plica in 47% of breaststroke swimmers with medial knee pain. Some other injuries include inner knee problems and hip injuries from breaststroke kicking, and back injuries from dolphin kicks or land training. Back and neck pain are common injuries in elite swimmers too. One study shows incidence rates of low back pain as high as 50% for butterfly swimmers and 47% for those swimming breaststroke. Out of 56 elite swimmers around age 19.6 years 68% and 29% of 38 recreational swimmers around age 21.1 years demonstrated degenerated discs at different pain levels. The main reasons for these injuries were intense training, long periods of time, and distance, suggesting that competitive swimming increases probability of developing lumbar intervertebral disk degeneration or lower back and spine injuries.

A significant amount of the pie chart is based on poor technique when in the water or even on dry land. Ear InfectionLastly, one of the most common injuries is an ear infection. An ear infection is an acute inflammation or infection of the outer ear caused by prolonged exposure to wet and warm conditions is known as swimmer’s ear. Statistics say swimmers ear affects one in 200 Americans every year and is present in chronic form in 3 to 5 percent of the population. Swimmers, surfers and other individuals who are exposed to wet and warm conditions are at an increased risk.