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Injury Prevention In Swimming Series: Knees

This week we will talk about knee injuries which mostly affects breaststrokers. So, what can the coaches and swimmers do to minimize this injury? Symptoms of Swimmer's Knee are general knee pain. Inflamed and/or fatigued knee tissue, swelling of the knee, sharp pain when placing the knee under stress. Long term breaststroke swimmers may become knock-kneed.

The first thing that needs to be evaluated is to make sure that the swimmer has proper stroke technique. Also, determine if the the injury is cause by overuse due to excess yards and hours spent swimming breastroke.

It is important for the swimmer to recognize that the body may be telling him/her that there is something wrong when he/she is in pain for more than a few days. Any physical therapist will tell you if you hurt more than 2 weeks then you need to see a doctor. So, the first thing you must do is stop and get evaluated by an athletic trainer or physician.

Don’t be embarrassed to tell your coach that you need stop because if you don’t it may just make things worse. The longer you wait the longer your recovery will be.

Now let’s get to the prevention of injury. A good warm up is essential to limit your chances of injury, this includes practice. Warming up helps the body to deliver oxygen to the muscle groups about to be exercised. Warming up increases body temperature, which reduces the chance for muscle and tendon injuries. A short 5-minute warm-up can increase blood flow to the exercising muscles.

Dry land training is another very important aspect because the repetitive motions in swimming can lead to chronic injuries. Dry land training varies an athlete's patterns of movement and challenges their muscles to learn new exercises. Limited hip flexibility will also cause the overuse of the knee because you are trying to compensate for the limited flexibility of your hips.

In addition, dry land training can target areas left underdeveloped by swimming and relieve some of the demand placed on more stressed muscle groups. Stronger muscles also help distribute force correctly, putting less strain on joints, tendons and ligaments. Click HERE for some dry land exercises specifically designed for breast strokers. Below is one example of a dry land exercise that is of great benefit to breast strokers.

Physioball Prayer Roll “To get the maximum benefit out of performing this exercise, you must stabilize the spine in a neutral position for the entire time. Additionally, the exercise targets the abdominal muscles in a way that will carry over to strengthening the undulating body movements that occur during breaststroke and butterfly.

  1. Using your forearms, support your upper body on a physioball. Support your lower body with your knees and toes.

  2. Set your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine in a neutral position.

  3. Roll the ball out slowly, allowing your arms to move with the ball and your knees to straighten.

  4. Pause in the ending position and then return to the start.”

Stretching is a major component of dry land training. It helps maintain flexibility and reduce the risk of injuries. A full-body stretching routine is recommended, with extra focus on shoulders, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves since these are heavily used in water. Stretching should be done after any intense workout as part of a cool-down routine.

In conclusion, make sure you don’t ignore any pain that is not improving within two weeks because if you don’t, it can lead to more problems down the line. Also stretch after each practice and add a dry land training component to your training. Adding these items can greatly eliminate easily preventable injuries. Just remember, the great Michael Phelps did not become a 23-time Olympic Gold Medalist by just swimming hours and hours in the pool. He spent a lot of time in the gym, doing dry land training and stretching.

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