Making Waves: A Guide to Shoulder Care for Youth Swimmers

For young swimmers diving into competitive swimming, the pool becomes a second home, a place of growth, friendship, and accomplishment. While the benefits of youth swimming are undeniable, it’s essential to address a common concern: shoulder pain. As young swimmers push their limits, understanding and managing shoulder pain is crucial to ensure a fulfilling and injury-free journey in the pool.

Understanding Youth Swimmer's Shoulder

Understanding Youth Swimmer’s Shoulder

Shoulder Anatomy 101

Young swimmers are not immune to shoulder pain, often called “swimmer’s shoulder.” This term encompasses various issues that can lead to discomfort, inflammation, and restricted movement in the shoulder joint. The repetitive nature of swimming, coupled with growing bodies and developing muscles, can contribute to muscle imbalances, technique-related problems, and overuse injuries.


anatomy of the shoulderThe shoulder consists of three bones: the humerus (upper arm bone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the clavicle (collarbone). The head of the humerus fits into a shallow socket on the scapula, forming a ball-and-socket joint known as the glenohumeral joint. This arrangement grants the shoulder a remarkable range of motion but also makes it inherently susceptible to issues when the intricate balance within this arrangement is disturbed. From a larger perspective, injury prevention must include the entire shoulder girdle. A comprehensive approach addresses the three bones mentioned above: the humerus, scapula, and clavicle, and the spine (cervical and thoracic) and ribcage.


anatomy of the shoulderThe repetitive nature of swimming, while excellent for cardiovascular fitness and muscle development, places a unique strain on the shoulder joint. Moving one’s arms through the water involves a complex interplay of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. The rotator cuff, a group of four muscles and their associated tendons is critical in maintaining shoulder stability and facilitating the subtle adjustments required for optimal swimming.


The rotator cuff, a group of four muscles and their associated tendons is critical in maintaining shoulder stability and facilitating the subtle adjustments required for optimal swimming

Common Reasons Behind Youth Swimmer’s Shoulder

Rotator Cuff Strain

The muscles and tendons around the shoulder joint can experience strain due to the demanding nature of swimming strokes, leading to pain and limited mobility.

Impingement Syndrome

When the rotator cuff tendons become compressed during specific movements, inflammation and pain can occur, affecting the young swimmer’s performance.


Overuse of the shoulder tendons, a common occurrence in competitive swimming, can lead to inflammation and discomfort.

Muscle Imbalances

As young swimmers grow and develop, muscle imbalances may arise, causing some muscles to become overly strong while others weaken, ultimately leading to shoulder pain.

Technique Matters

Incorrect stroke techniques, body positioning, or breathing patterns can strain the shoulder joint excessively, contributing to pain over time.


swimming technique

5 Swimmer’s Shoulder Prevention and Management Strategies

In youth swimming, safeguarding against the dreaded “swimmer’s shoulder” requires a proactive approach. Prevention and management strategies are pivotal in maintaining young swimmers’ shoulder health. By comprehending the root causes of swimmer’s shoulder and incorporating effective strategies to prevent and manage it, you can continue swimming without being sidelined by pain.


1. Master the Technique

Working closely with swim coaches who prioritize proper technique is essential. Proper technique helps young swimmers reduce stress on their shoulders and lower the risk of injuries.

2. Warm-Up and Stretching

Always start with a thorough warm-up before hitting the water. Incorporate gentle shoulder stretches to enhance flexibility and prevent injuries.

3. Diversify Training

Encourage cross-training activities that target different muscle groups. This well-rounded approach promotes overall strength and minimizes the risk of overuse injuries.

4. Prioritize Rest and Recovery

Teach young swimmers to listen to their bodies. If shoulder discomfort arises, taking a break from intense training is crucial to allow proper healing.

5. Benefit from Youth-Oriented Physical Therapy

Connect with a physical therapist experienced in youth sports injuries. They can offer tailored exercises and guidance to support the shoulder’s health.

swimming youth team


Shoulder pain should never keep you from enjoying the numerous benefits of swimming. By understanding the causes of swimmer’s shoulder and implementing proper prevention and management strategies, you can continue to glide through the water with greater speed for faster times. Remember, a healthy shoulder is a happy shoulder, and seeking professional guidance, such as that provided by a physical therapy clinic, can be a game-changer in maintaining your swimming routine for years.


Thank you for reading 5 Prevention And Management Strategies For Shoulder Pain In Youth Swimmers


In the upcoming weeks, we will have new blogs focusing on exercises to improve performance and decrease injury risk. Stay tuned!


Our physical therapists have advanced training for sports injuries, including hands-on (manual therapy) training for soft tissue, joint mobilization, joint manipulation, and progressive exercise. Our comprehensive evaluation and one-on-one treatment go beyond alleviating symptoms; we strive to determine the root cause of the problem. Visit our Sports Injuries page for more information.

For a thorough evaluation and individualized treatment, contact our Physical Therapy Sherwood clinic or our Physical Therapy Bethany clinic today and be seen in less than 48 hours.