Fun and Fitness in the Water
It’s summer in Louisiana and that means the days are getting longer and hotter! Not surprisingly, many of us look to the water to cool off and for recreation. Pools, waterways, beaches and the ocean are filled with people having fun!
The water can also be a great source for fitness and competition. Swimming is a great exercise and sport and is of course the first component of a triathlon. Other sports which are very common in our area involving the water include water skiing and wakeboarding.
As with any activity, however, accidents and overuse injuries can occur. Here are a few of the more common injuries that occur in water sports and how to prevent them.
The most common injury in swimming is “swimmer’s shoulder”. This is shoulder pain caused by inflammation of the rotator cuff, tendinitis of the biceps, instability, and/or weakness of the muscles around the scapula (shoulder blade). It usually occurs as a result of poor technique, overtraining, or the use of swim paddles or pull buoys.
To prevent these injuries it’s important to practice good technique. Incorporate rest periods and use alternative strokes to the offending stroke. Strengthening exercises for the shoulder and periscapular muscles can also decrease the incidence.
Stress injuries to the knee can occur occasionally mostly with the breast stroke. Often called “breaststroke knee”, this problem is caused from the leg kick which puts excessive strain on the medial collateral ligament (MCL) on the inner aspect of the knee. Again, proper technique and rest periods can significantly reduce the risk of this injury.
Less commonly injuries from swimming can occur in the neck or lower back. Excessive neck rotation in the freestyle stroke or excessive flexion /extension during the butterfly or back stroke can cause injuries. Keeping neutral alignment of the head with the spine can help prevent these issues. Proper technique during the kick phase, especially the dolphin kick of the butterfly stroke, can also prevent lower back injuries.
Far and away the most common injuries in waterskiing involve sprains and strains. The most common joint affected is the ankle. This is due to the restraint of the foot and ankle in the binding. When the skier falls, the ski and ankle may go one way while the body goes another thus resulting in the ankle injury. This same mechanism of injury can sometimes result in undue torque at the knee resulting in a sprain or strain as well. Fractures can occasionally occur, but these are much less common. Prevention of these injuries can be accomplished with good technique, proper well fitted equipment, and safe driving practices.
The next most common injuries involve lacerations to the head and face with direct impact when falling either directly on the water, on the tow rope handle, jumps, buoys, or the skis themselves. Concussions are also common, so it is imperative to wear a life vest!
Wakeboarding requires a different stance and technique from waterskiing and is more apt to involve stunts or tricks. As such the injuries are slightly different. Most commonly, wakeboard injuries involve head and c-spine injuries due to direct impact when the boarder “catches an edge” resulting in an abrupt fall or misses a stunt.
Less common injuries are ankle and knee sprains. Occasionally very bad falls result in leg fractures or shoulder dislocations.
Again it is very important to wear a life vest and Louisiana law requires a rider or “spotter” in the boat in addition to the driver. Safety is paramount!