Comparison of shoulder injury in collegiate- and master's-level swimmers

Clin J Sport Med. 1995;5(1):4-8. doi: 10.1097/00042752-199501000-00002.


The need to investigate shoulder injury in swimmers other than the young and elite is evident, as all ages and levels are represented in the 100 million Americans who classify themselves as swimmers. To investigate the differences between young, highly competitive collegiate swimmers and older, less elite swimmers, a survey questionnaire was distributed to 100 collegiate and 100 master's swim teams. Questions regarding swimming routines, performance standards, and several possible predisposing factors associated with "swimmer's shoulder," as implicated in the literature, were investigated. As expected, the results revealed that the collegiate group swam the higher yardage, with considerably faster times in both the 50- and the 1,000-yd freestyle, and more than double the number of workouts per week. However, the collegiate and master's group reported similar percentages, 47 and 48%, respectively, experiencing shoulder pain lasting 3 weeks or more, despite the lesser distances and intensities associated with the latter group. Chi-square analysis revealed no association between shoulder pain and perceived level of flexibility, hand paddle usage, or breathing side for either group. However, over 50% of the swimmers with shoulder pain in both groups perceived that increased intensities and/or distance provoked shoulder pain, indicating that fatigue may be the issue to avoid and on which to focus. Strengthening the muscles of the shoulder, specifically those shown to have a propensity to fatigue, provides a strong defense against injury, as fatigue of the shoulder muscles may be the initial antecedent to swimmer's shoulder. These results give the swimmer, coach, and medical practitioner feedback to consider for a swimmer of any age or level.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Hand / physiology
  • Humans
  • Motor Skills
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle Fatigue
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Respiration
  • Risk Factors
  • Shoulder / physiology
  • Shoulder Injuries*
  • Shoulder Joint / physiology
  • Swimming / injuries*
  • Swimming / physiology