McMaster, W. C., Roberts, A., & Stoddard, T. (1998). A correlation between shoulder laxity and interfering pain in competitive swimmers. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 26, 83-85.

It was found that excessive shoulder laxity is a common denominator that causes significant interfering shoulder pain in elite swimmers.

A remedial exercise protocol to reestablish rotator cuff strength was formulated for symptomatic athletes, but it was cautioned it may not be universally effective. Clinically, the exercise protocol emphasizes strengthening the abductors, external rotators, and lower trapezius muscle, and seems to be helpful. The efficacy of the program may be multifactorial, including reducing fatigue in the external rotators and scapula stabilizers, and better centering of the humeral heal in the lax joint, thereby reducing sublaxation potential. There is a limit beyond which the physiologically lax shoulder becomes pathologic, and pain results. That limit/threshold may be different for each individual athlete.

Implication. Shoulder flexibility is important for swimming. But if a shoulder becomes too flexible, that is the head of the humerus moves too much within the glenoid capsule, pain and injury can result. Both flexibility and strengthening exercises are likely to be required to maintain sufficient, but not too much, joint mobility.

Return to Table of Contents for Training for Swimming.