Triathlon: Swimming

Of the 3 triathlon disciplines, swimming is certainly the most complete. Indeed, it uses at once the upper limbs and lower limbs, as well as, obviously, the core muscles. The lack of impact is also one of the benefits of swimming. Injuries that occur during swimming are much more often related to overuse than trauma.

The shoulder, the neck, and the thoracic spine are the joints most often affected.

Several tips can help you reduce the risk of injuring yourself:

  • Breathe every 3 strokes to work symmetrically;
     
  • Turn with the neck and core when breathing;
     
  • In contact with water, the hand should be perpendicular to the water, so that the palm of the hand is facing the water and the thumb doesn’t enter first (internal rotation = higher risk of impingement at the shoulder);
     
  • Vary the swimming style (crawl, back crawl, butterfly, breaststroke) even if you compete in triathlons and will only need the crawl in competition;
     
  • As with all sports, it is crucial to start your training sessions with a warm-up and finish with a cool-down.

These tips should help you avoid swimming injuries but, unfortunately, they are not 100% foolproof. Indeed, since the shoulder is the most mobile joint of the body, it is not uncommon to find motor control abnormalities of the shoulder-scapula-thorax complex. These dysfunctions will not necessarily be symptomatic in the general population but could be in swimmers, who must use their shoulders in a much more pronounced fashion. Thus, in this case, it will be very important to consult a physiotherapist or another health professional to identify deficiencies and correct them.

 

Félix-Olivier Brochu
Physiotherapist and owner
Action Sport Physio Laval
Action Sport Physio Laval West