The prevalence of shoulder pain in the competitive swimming population has been reported to be as high as 91%. Female collegiate swimmers have a reported shoulder-injury rate 3 times greater than their male counterparts. There has been little information on how to best prevent shoulder pain in this population. The purpose of this study was to examine if differences exist in shoulder range of motion, upper-extremity strength, core endurance, and pectoralis minor length in NCAA Division I female swimmers with and without shoulder pain and disability.
NCAA Division I females (N = 37) currently swimming completed a brief survey that included the pain subscale of the Penn Shoulder Score (PSS) and the sports/performing arts module of the Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) Outcome Measure. Passive range of motion for shoulder internal rotation (IR) and external rotation (ER) at 90° abduction was measured using a digital inclinometer. Strength was measured using a handheld dynamometer for scapular depression and adduction, scapular adduction, IR, and ER. Core endurance was assessed using the side-bridge and prone-bridge tests. Pectoralis minor muscle length was assessed in both a resting and a stretched position using the PALM palpation meter. All measures were taken on the dominant and nondominant arms.
Participants were classified as positive for pain and disability if the following 2 criteria were met: The DASH sports module score was >6/20 points and the PSS strenuous pain score was ≥4/10. If these criteria were not met, participants were classified as negative for pain and disability. Significant differences were found between the 2 groups on the dominant side for pectoralis muscle length at rest (P = .003) and stretch (P = .029).
The results provide preliminary evidence regarding an association between a decrease in pectoralis minor length and shoulder pain and disability in Division I female swimmers.
Harrington is with the Dept of Clinical & Applied Movement Sciences, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL. Meisel is with the DiSepio Inst for Rural Health and Wellness, Saint Francis University, Loretto, PA. Tate is with Willow Grove Physical Therapy, Willow Grove, PA.