Swimming is a popular activity for many people, as it provides a great fitness effect without placing undue stress or load on the body. However the sport does come with its share of injuries, especially those training and competing at a high level, with one of the more common injuries being anterior hip pain. While it is not uncommon to experience tight hip flexors after an intense session, when this progresses to pain and functional restriction it becomes a different story. The hip flexors of the body comprises of a group of muscles that are: the iliopsoas, rectus femoris and tensor fascia latae. As the name suggest these muscles flex the hip joint but also play an important role with the lumbar spine and knee joint.
Typically these muscles can tighten after a swimming session however once this load becomes too excessive or too frequent, pain and functional restriction can develop. The loading of the hip flexors predominantly comes from a large amount of flutter and dolphin kicking. This type of kicking can be quite intense through only a small range of motion which increase the fatigue of the muscles. This load can be increased with the addition of flippers during training sessions.
The consequence of over loading the hip flexor muscles within such a small range of movement is an initial feeling tightness within the area. This can quickly progress to pain both during and after a swimming session. Excessively tight and painful hip flexors can also greatly affect performance. Tight hip flexors decreases the streamline position and also decreases kicking strength. Furthermore tight hip flexors can lead to other injuries like anterior hip impingement and lower back pain.
Anterior hip impingement is often associated with the younger athletes, including swimmers, and again is a result from high loading of the hip flexors. While this only affects a percentage of athletes with a morphologically abnormal hip joint, early detection is important to prevent further injuries in the future. Lower back pain is another common injury that can be associated with the hip flexors. The tightness of the hip flexors creates different loading onto the joints in the lower back making it more susceptible to injury.
Here at PhysioHealth we offer comprehensive swimming screening assessments and strengthening programs specific for anterior hip pain. We have developed a thorough screening assessment for swimmers that will highlight potential areas that may need attention including hip flexibility. An individual strengthening and stretching program will be developed to reduce the risk of injury but also improve performance.