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Safety Tips: Swimming and Diving

Swimming and diving are fun, but swimming a lot can lead to repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) (also called overuse injuries) and diving injuries can be serious.

To keep things as safe as possible for swimming and diving season, follow these tips.

Why Are Swimming and Diving Safety Important?

Depending on the stroke, overuse injuries are common in swimming. Swimmers who do a lot of freestyle, butterfly, or backstroke can get "swimmer's shoulder." Swimmer's shoulder affects the tendons of the rotator cuff, the group of muscles that support the shoulder. Knee and hip injuries are more common with breaststroke kicking, while butterfly kicking can lead to lower back problems.

If you're a diver, hitting the diving board can leave you with scrapes, cuts, bruises, and broken bones. Hitting your head on a diving board or the bottom of the pool can cause a head injury, permanent spinal cord damage, paralysis, and even death. And if you are knocked out in the pool, you could possibly drown.

Gearing Up

You'll need a pool and your team's swimsuit, obviously, but here are few other things to think about:

Before You Hit the Pool

Getting yourself in shape before the swimming season starts will help you be a better swimmer or diver and make injuries less likely to happen. Start working out and eating right a few months before the season begins. Better yet, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet year-round, and then you won't need to worry about being in shape for the season.

If you like to cross-train in the preseason, include exercises that help strengthen the muscles of your back and abdomen. A strong core and related muscles can help prevent the imbalances that can lead to overuse injuries.

If you'll be doing more swimming than you're used to due to increased practice time, or if you're going to start swimming longer distances, build up to the extra time or distance gradually. Studies show that increasing the time or distance all at once can make injuries more likely.

While You Swim or Dive

Always use good stroke technique when you swim. This will reduce the stress on your joints that can lead to overuse injuries. If you get tired or have pain at practice, stop swimming and get out of the pool. Swimming when you're tired or have pain can make you use poor swimming technique.

To help keep your goggles on during a racing start, tuck your chin to your chest before you hit the water.

When diving, be sure to check that the pool is deep enough, jump well away from the board, and stay clear of pool walls to avoid head injuries.

A Few Other Reminders

If you use the right stroke technique and take a break if you are feeling pain, chances are you won't get injured while swimming. Keep safety in mind when you're diving, and you're not likely to get hurt doing that either.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: June 2015

Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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