Do Swimmers Get Injured More Often Than Other Athletes?

Michael Butler
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Injury Rates for Swimmers

Swimming is generally thought of as a low-impact sport. Therefore, it’s often assumed that it’s less likely to cause injury than higher impact sports like running or football. But a review of injuries in female collegiate swimmers compared to other athletes found the opposite. Swimming actually ranked second only behind track athletes for the highest rates of stress fractures.

The review also found that college students were at the highest risk of injury for all sports, particularly for sports that have a short season (like swimming) and/or a short practice period (such as pre-season football). It’s likely that the longer season and multiple practice periods offered by other sports contributed to the lower injury rates.

Although swimming is often considered a low-risk sport, it’s important to keep in mind that different sports may have different risk profiles. Therefore, your decision to play one sport over another is your choice based on your goals and level of risk tolerance.

How Do Swimmers Get Injured?

Swimming is one of the most popular sports in the world as it is accessible to most people and requires no special equipment. It is also a great exercise for both physical and mental health. Swimming is one of the best ways to strengthen your cardiovascular system and to sculpt your body.

But swimmers do get injured.

Many unexperienced swimmers don't give much thought to their technique, which leads to many injuries.

Anatomical weak points, such as ankles, should be strengthened.

Swimmers are required to maintain a balanced form in order to reduce injuries and to swim in an efficient way. This common technique problem is illustrated in the diagram below.

There are also other swimmers injuries related to inadequate training, improper recovery, training on an empty stomach, the wrong equipment, and the wrong stroke technique.

Besides, there are injuries related to the type of water you swim in. Cold water (particularly under 10C) and the presence of heavy metals can lead to health problems.

And the last and the most common reason for swimming injuries is overtraining, which then leads to overuse injuries.

How Often Do Swimmers Get Injured Compared to Other Athletes?

One of the biggest misconceptions about swimming is that it’s not a hard sport and doesn’t require much training. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this along with “I can’t swim so I’m going to take up swimming.”

I swim twice a week, but I can’t swim a lap to save my life!

So this misconception is understandable. You may have a friend who wants to join your masters swim team because he thinks he doesn’t have to put in the hard work. Or the popular and athletic kid in school thinks that all he has to do is to join the swim team.

After several practices, he realizes that he’s not as good as he thought he was. So he quits the team … and blames it on the hard work and relentless training.

Swimming practice is hard, intense and tenacious! It is not for the faint of heart … and not the kind of sport that you can just jump right into.

In Summary

Swimming is an awesome sport no doubt about it. It's a full body workout that strengthens both the core and the upper and lower body. Swimmers are able to burn more calories than almost any other sport, and training to swim 10 miles in an open water marathon is truly inspiring.

That said, I get a lot of questions about swimmers getting hurt. Many swimmers tell me that they’ve worked up their swimming training and suddenly get injured.

Should every one assume they will get hurt? No. Unfortunately, there are many factors that may contribute to injury and there's probably a lot you can do to control them.

However, it's important to understand that training is a long process. It takes time to see meaningful results, and more importantly, to see meaningful improvement in your technique.

Further Reading

Swimming is a great workout and exercise for your health, but there are some hidden dangers for swimmers. I’ve known several people who were injured while swimming. What separates swimming from other exercises is the water element. Swimmers face unique challenges – from hydrodynamics to water temperatures. By understanding the risks and dangers of being a swimmer, you can better understand, prepare for, and overcome the adversities of a swimming environment.