The shoulder in competitive swimming

Am J Sports Med. 1980 May-Jun;8(3):159-63. doi: 10.1177/036354658000800303.


Shoulder pain is the most common orthopaedic problem in competitive swimming. In a group of 137 of this country's best swimmers, 58 had had symptoms of "swimmer's shoulder." Population characteristics of this group indicated that symptoms increased with the caliber of the athlete, were slightly more common in men, and were related to sprint rather than distance swimming. The use of hand-paddle training exacerbated symptoms, which were more common during the early and middle season. Consideration of shoulder mechanics in swimming reveals that freestyle, butterfly, and backstroke require similar motions; a swimmer using any of these strokes is susceptible to developing shoulder pain. Swimmer's shoulder represents chronic irritation of the humeral head and rotator cuff on the coracoacromial arch during abduction of the shoulder, the so-called impingement syndrome. Treatment included stretching, rest, ice therapy, oral antiinflammatory agents, judicious use of injectable steroids, and surgery as a last resort.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology
  • Athletic Injuries / therapy
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / etiology
  • Physical Education and Training
  • Shoulder / physiology
  • Shoulder / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Injuries
  • Swimming*
  • United States