Swimmer's shoulder is a common orthopedic injury in people who swim. It is caused by abnormal rubbing and pinching of the structures in your shoulder. This injury is experienced by about 40% to 90% of swimmers at one time or another.1
It is also known as rotator cuff impingement syndrome, and it may cause pain and irritation of your shoulder's rotator cuff tendons and the bursa (fluid-filled sac) that resides in your shoulder.
Swimmer's Shoulder Symptoms
Common symptoms of swimmer's shoulder include:
- Shoulder pain
- Swelling in the front or top of the shoulder
- Difficulty reaching up overhead
- Shoulder pain when bearing weight through your arm
Symptoms of swimmer's shoulder tend to be worse during or immediately after swimming. This is due to the position of your arms and upper extremities while swimming.1
Reaching overhead and turning your hand inward, similar to the motion that occurs during the crawl or freestyle stroke, can cause your rotator cuff tendons or shoulder bursa to become pinched underneath the acromion process of your shoulder blade.
When this pinching occurs, the tendons or bursa can become inflamed, leading to pain and difficulty with normal arm use.3
Swimmer's shoulder may also occur due to the laxity of the ligaments in your shoulder.1 It is theorized that over time, ligaments in a swimmer's shoulders become stretched and lax, leading to shoulder joint instability. This may cause your shoulder joint to be loose and may lead to pinching of the structures in your shoulder.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and are a recreational or competitive swimmer, you may have swimmer's shoulder. It is recommended you visit your physician to get an accurate diagnosis of your condition and to begin the correct treatment for your shoulder.