There are a few aliments and injuries unique to swimmers, resulting from the nature of the sport and the damp environment in which athletes train. These issues can often be prevented by following some easy tips.Common aliments and injuries

  • Overuse injuries are the most common injuries for competitive swimmers. The stress placed on certain joints during training often overloads the muscles and tendons making the swimmer vulnerable to injury. Whenever pain is resulting from a particular movement or activity, the swimmer should stop. There is never a good reason to try to work through the pain of an injury. Continuing the activity only causes more damage.
  • Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is a very painful condition caused by breakdown of the lining of the outer ear canal due to excessive moisture. If you develop swimmer’s ear, keep your head and ears out of the water and call your doctor.

    To prevent swimmer’s ear, keep ears dry during training, avoid putting objects in your ear, ensure soap and shampoo are thoroughly rinsed from the ear canals after bathing and avoid excessive cleaning of the ears. Ear wax provides a protective layer that inhibits bacterial growth in the canal.

    Using custom earplugs or swim caps may help keep the ears dry, and cotton balls coated in petroleum jelly are also effective. In addition, there are ear drops that contain alcohol and acetic acid that you can use after swimming to dry the ears and prevent bacterial growth.
  • Athlete’s foot causes itchy feet. It is transmitted from pool decks and locker room floors and can be prevented by wearing flip-flops while out of the water.
  • Eye irritation from the chlorine in pools can cause a swimmer’s eyes to itch and become red. Wearing properly fitted goggles can keep water away from eyes and prevent irritation. Over-the-counter eye drops can restore moisture to dry eyes.
  • Hair discoloration is a common occurrence. Blondes may notice a greenish tint beginning to develop, and brunettes may see lighter tones appearing. Wearing a swim cap during training and competition can keep the chlorine that causes these color changes out of the hair. It is also a good idea to rinse hair with water and a mild conditioner before and after entering the pool.
  • Shoulder injuries can result from poor stroke mechanics or sudden increases in training load or intensity. Proper stretching combined with gradual increases in workload during practice can help prevent shoulder pain. A swimmer who continues to experience shoulder pain should see a doctor.
  • Knee injuries, often referred to as breaststroker’s knee, result from repetitive stress on the medial collateral ligament (MCL). Swimmers experiencing this type of knee pain should minimize breaststroke distance by cross-training with other strokes. If pain persists see a doctor.
  • Back pain results from improper head and/or body position in the water, which places stress on back muscles. Coaches should instruct athletes on proper form to prevent back pain. 

Injury Assessment and Treatment

Assessing the severity of an injury can be difficult. When in doubt, seek the advice of a doctor.
Injuries may cause:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Limited range of motion
  • Loss of strength

For minor or more common injuries, think PRICEMM- Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, Motion and Medicine to limit swelling and further tissue damage, maintain range of motion and return the athlete to competition as quickly and as safely as possible.