"Swimming is an endurance activity, even when training for the sprint events, which means that swimmers are prone to overuse injury," says Daniel Vigil, MD, Health Sciences Associate Clinical Professor at UCLA, and team physician for UCLA Athletics.
Swimmers at the elite level may swim up to 9 miles per day (that's over 2,500 shoulder revolutions) 6 days a week, per research published in Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Despite having a killer physique and natural taper (broad shoulders, thin waist), they're arguably some of the most overtrained athletes. But even those at the recreational or intermediate level (both swimmers and triathletes) can experience aches and pains.
What Are the Most Common Swimming Injuries?
About 90 percent of swimmers' complaints pertain to shoulder pain, according to research published in Clinics in Sports Medicine. It makes sense. The sport is upper-body-centric, even though there are nuances in stroke, so that body part is the most overused.
More often than not, injuries include rotator cuff impingement (a.k.a. swimmer's shoulder)—when your tendons get inflamed and pinch as your arm lifts. Biceps tendinitis is also common; your upper tendon becomes irritated and can cause pain when you lift your arm in certain directions.
Swimmers who primarily do breaststroke are more apt to suffer knee and hip injuries, as well as back problems, including bulging or herniated disks in the lower spine.