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Am J Sports Med. 2009 Oct;37(10):2037-42. doi: 10.1177/0363546509339364. Epub 2009 Jul 24.

Injury patterns in Division I collegiate swimming.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, USA.



In the last 25 years, it is estimated that over 42,000 male and female swimmers have competed at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I-A level. Despite the magnitude of these numbers, little is known about the epidemiology of collegiate swimming injuries. Purpose To describe the pattern of injuries incurred for one NCAA Division I collegiate men's and women's swimming team over 5 seasons.


Descriptive epidemiology study.


Musculoskeletal and head injuries reported in the Sports Injury Management System for a Division I swimming team from 2002-2007 were identified. Gender, body part, year of eligibility, position, stroke specialty, scholarship status, and team activity during which the injury occurred and lost time were recorded. Risk of injury was assessed relative to gender, stroke specialty, and year of eligibility.


From 2002-2007, 44 male and 50 female athletes competed for the University of Iowa swimming and diving team. The overall injury rates were estimated as 4.00 injuries per 1000 exposures for men and 3.78 injuries per 1000 exposures for women. Thirty-seven percent of injuries resulted in missed time. The shoulder/upper arm was the most frequently injured body part followed by the neck/back. Freshman swimmers suffered the most injuries as well as the highest mean number of injuries per swimmer. A significant pattern of fewer injuries in later years of eligibility was also demonstrated. The relative risk (RR) for injury was higher among nonfreestyle stroke specialties (RR, 1.33 [1.00-1.77]). Injury most often occurred as a result of, or during, practice for all swimmers. However, 38% of injuries were the result of team activities outside of practice or competition, such as strength training. No significant relationship was found between occurrence of injury and gender or scholarship status. There was no significant relationship between body part injured and stroke specialty. An increased number of total injuries and an increased risk of injuries in freshman collegiate swimmers were found.


Particular attention should be given to swimmers making the transition into collegiate level swimming. These data also suggest that injury surveillance and potential prevention strategies should focus on the shoulder for in-pool activities and the axial spine for cross-training activities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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