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Cracking the Code of Swimming Rehabilitation for Injured Athletes

06/04/2014, 6:45am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

Injured? No matter the sport, swimming might be the answer...

It can happen in an instant.

  • A body-check goes wrong and all of a sudden a hip is sprained.
  • A soccer player's mind goes one way, his foot goes another and an ankle is sprained. 
  • A tennis ball is served and with a sharp pop a rotator cuff is torn.

Injuries are all too common for active families who's members are competing in their sport of choice. No matter what the injury, the therapeutic elements of water are a natural source of healing energy. Low-impact and completely customizable, rehabilitating injuries through swimming is a timeless practice that uses the body's built-in resistance to slowly but surely return an athlete to form.

Treating an injury with swimming works because of the natural resistance of the water without the impact felt on land.

"There's a natural rythym to swimming - you're in and out of the pool, you breathe at the same times and your body performs natural repetitive movements within your individual comfort zone."

- Vanessa Brascia, ISIS Fitness Instructor

Depending on the type of injury and an athlete's goals, sports injuries that can be effectively treated in the the water include:

  • Shoulders
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Back

Here are three more benefits of swimming-based injury rehab.

1. Pain Analysis

Let’s choose an injury common to hockey players: a sprained shoulder.

Shoulders take a beating in hockey because there’s not a lot of give to the boards and normally a player being hit has the puck, so they don’t have time to protect themselves.

After the initial diagnosis, an overhand swimming stroke will allow the player to feel the muscles in the shoulder very acutely; this means that at the first sign of pain, an instructor will dial back treatment so the athlete is comfortable and healing can take place.

2. Progress Tracking

Once an athlete is pain-free, swimming allows for consistent tracking of results. Let’s say this same hockey player (or a tennis player, a soccer player or a soccer mom) is able to swim a 200 metre-length in a certain amount of time one week, then slightly faster the next week, faster after that and so on.

These quantitative results allow player and instructor to precisely document the return from injury.

What if the desired results aren’t happening? 

What if there is no progress?

Often when athletes don’t see progress in their rehabilitation, there’s been a mistake in diagnosis.

Or, it could be that the instructor needs to alter the approach in order to focus on different muscles, joints or bones. 

3. Conditioning

When a player misses playing and practice time because of any injury, more often than not they’re also missing the conditioning aspect of their sport. 

With leg injuries common in soccer players, such as ankle and knee issues, a player can go from being an active athlete to a couch-potato in no time. 

Swimming can break those habits pretty quick.

Once a player is pain-free and nearing a return, the progress tracking mentioned above becomes an internal competition. If the internal drive is there, an athlete will work against their previous times without even realizing they’re competing. So, basically, this step in the process is swimming’s equivalent of a hockey bag-skate.

What if the internal drive isn't there? 

Coming back from an injury is as much about the mental hurdles an athlete needs to clear as it is the physical hurdles. 

Being banned from playing games or competing in matches isn’t fun for anyone. Sitting on the sidelines can drop any athlete in the dumps. When this happens, it’s up to a skilled instructor to provide the extra push needed to get back to the field, ice or court as soon as possible.

Interested in swimming lessons? 

Register Here ->

photo credit: i k o via photopin cc

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Tag(s): Home  Aquatics  Hockey  Tennis  NSWC Marlins Swim Team  Minor Hockey  Sr Men's  Fitness