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Shoulder Elbow. 2018 Oct;10(4):285-291. doi: 10.1177/1758573218773539. Epub 2018 May 12.

The short-term effect of swimming training load on shoulder rotational range of motion, shoulder joint position sense and pectoralis minor length.

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English Institute of Sport, Loughborough, UK.
Centre for Health, Sport and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Salford, Salford, UK.
Spire Nottingham Hospital, Nottingham, UK.
English Institute of Sport, Manchester, UK.



Shoulder pain or injury is the most common issue facing elite competitive swimmers and the most frequent reason for missed or modified training. Literature suggests that highly repetitive upper limb loading leads to inappropriate adaptations within the shoulder complex. The most likely maladaptations to occur are variations in shoulder rotational range of motion, reduction in joint position sense and shortened pectoralis minor length. This has yet to have been confirmed in experimental studies. The aim of this study was to investigate the short-term effects of swimming training load upon internal and external rotation range of motion, joint position sense and pectoralis minor length.


Sixteen elite swimmers training in the British Swimming World Class programme participated. Measures of internal and external range of motion, joint position sense error score and pectoralis minor length were taken before and after a typical 2 h swimming session.


Following swimming training shoulder external rotation range of motion and pectoralis minor length reduced significantly (-3.4°, p = <0.001 and -0.7 cm, p = <0.001, respectively), joint position sense error increased significantly (+2.0° error angle, p = <0.001). Internal rotation range of motion demonstrated no significant change (-0.6, p = 0.53).


This study determined that elite level swimming training results in short-term maladaptive changes in shoulder performance that could potentially predispose them to injury.


joint position sense; pectoralis minor; range of motion; shoulder injury; shoulder pain; swimmers

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