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New Study Highlights Injury Patterns in Collegiate Swimmers

Transition from high school to collegiate swimming should be closely monitored to prevent injury.

Rosemont, IL (Vocus) September 30, 2009 -- More than 42,000 male and female swimmers have competed at Division 1 universities in the past 25 years, however, little information exists on injury patterns for these athletes. In a new study, published in the October issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers at the University of Iowa collected data from a five-year period to determine injury patterns and prevention strategies.

"Thirty-seven percent of the injuries suffered by the swimmers in our study resulted in missed time. By analyzing these injury patterns, we hope training programs can be modified to protect and strengthen those body areas that were most often injured, such as the shoulder," says Brian Wolf, MD, lead author and assistant professor of orthopaedics at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Researchers investigated the overall injury rates from 44 male and 50 female collegiate swimmers from 2002-2007. The overall injury rates were estimated to be 4.00 injuries per 1,000 exposures for men and 3.78 injuries per 1,000 exposures for women. The shoulder/upper arm was the most commonly injured body part, followed by the neck and back. Higher rates of injury were also seen in those individuals who were non-freestyle stroke specialists. Most interestingly, freshmen swimmers suffered the most injuries as well as the highest average number of injuries per swimmer. A significant pattern of fewer injuries was also observed during subsequent eligibility years for collegiate swimmers.

"Our research highlights the importance of properly preparing and transitioning freshmen athletes into collegiate swimming through strength training and gradual increases in distance. This is especially true for those athletes unaccustomed to collegiate level yardage requirements in practice and for those who have not previously done strength and cross training activities outside of the pool. Our study noted that 38 percent of injuries were the result of team activities outside of practice or competition," says Wolf.

Wolf and his colleagues hope that with increased research, injury surveillance and improved training techniques swimming injuries will be better understood and prevented.

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) is a world leader in sports medicine education, research, communication and fellowship, and includes national and international orthopaedic sports medicine leaders. The Society works closely with many other sports medicine specialists, including athletic trainers, physical therapists, family physicians, and others to improve the identification, prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of sports injuries. For more information visit AJSM online at or contact Lisa Weisenberger at lisa (at) aossm (dot) org or 847-292-4900.


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