Swimming can wreak havoc on shoulders. It seems that “swimmer’s shoulder” is as common as “tennis elbow” these days.
There are many potential causes for swimmer’s shoulder but I have found that there is a common stroke habit that can become a potential source of shoulder problems.
When the hand enters the water, it’s important to reach through the water — rather than over it — and extend the arm. This lead hand glides, while the back hand pushes water and creates forward momentum. In addition to gliding, the lead hand is “catching” the water. This is the act of finding stable water to anchor the lead hand into.
Swimmers who try to apply pressure on the water too early, often suffer from shoulder problems. I encourage swimmers to forget about generating forward momentum with the top 12-18 inches of surface water. Pushing down with a straight arm places a tremendous amount of pressure on the fulcrum…i.e. your shoulder.
Go ahead and extend your arm as you glide and catch the water. But the pull doesn’t start until you bend your arm — keeping a high elbow — and start moving water towards your feet with you hand and forearm. That’s when to apply pressure on the water.
As always, if you continue to have shoulder problems. You should consider seeing a sports therapist or someone who can diagnose your problem.