The 1 Thing Every College Freshman Swimmer Needs to Know

  5 Olivier Poirier-Leroy | August 19th, 2015 | College, Featured, Lifestyle, Training

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.

For a whole slew of swimmers fall means leaving home for the first time and going to college. Some swimmers are making the trek cross-country, while others are attending institutions closer to home (and that soon-to-be missed home cooking).

It’s a time of exploration, of reaching out into adulthood for the first time, and coming into your own.

But before all that, there is one thing you should know before you hit campus for frosh week.

No, it’s not the location of the campus cafeteria (although key), or the location of the nearest late night coffee shop where you are going to be pulling the inevitable all-night study bender.

SEE ALSO: How to Prevent Swimmer’s Shoulder

It’s this:

In comparison to the upperclassmen on your swim team, you are not only significantly more likely to get injured this year, but you will also be injured more often.

In research done at the University of Iowa between 2002-2007 that followed their Div 1 program, researchers tracked the injury rate and frequency of their swimmers and found that freshmen were sometimes are much as twice as likely to get injured than their teammates.

The average number of injuries for both the men and women freshmen was nearly identical, with both sitting at 1.2 injuries per athlete. This number drops drastically in subsequent years – especially for the women – until finally in senior year the average has halved at 0.57 injuries per swimmer.

The researchers speculate that the discrepancy between injury rates in the first year compared to later years was the adjustment that swimmers had to make coming to a new program, particularly in the gym.

With nearly 40% of the total injuries occurring within the weight room, many club-grown swimmers who may never have had access to the sparkling new strength facilities most college programs have find themselves unprepared for the lifting being asked of them in the gym.

Some other interesting results from the study include:

  • Non-freestyle specialists were 33% more likely greater risk of injury.
  • 38% of the injuries incurred were out of the pool (i.e. strength training and other team exercises).
  • Unsurprisingly, when it came to in-the-pool training, the shoulder was the most frequently cited injured area.
  • However, swimmers were twice as likely to injure their neck and back than their shoulder in the gym.

Here are three keys for staying injury-free your freshman year:

1. Get ahead of the curve with some pre-hab. Don’t wait until you are injured to do something about your shoulders. Have a solid pre-hab plan in place before you get there.

2. Be realistic about where you are, and communicate this with your coach and strength training coach. I can understand how your pride can fuel some stupid decisions – like trying to deadlift 275 pounds when you’ve never done a deadlift in your life – but being honest with not only your coaches but with yourself about where you are at in the gym can save you a great deal of time on the IR.

3. Just like in the pool, lifting starts with technique. You would never splash around full-tilt with no regard to your technique in the pool, so carry that same attitude and perspective to the gym and to your strength training.

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  1. CoachScott says:

    Are they taking the total number of injuries divided by the number of swimmers in each class to come up with their average, or are they comparing the same swimmer(s) each year?

    I’m wondering if the data might be skewed by the fact that some swimmers with chronic injuries their Freshman year might elect to “retire” before they get to their later years…

  2. Swimcoach12 says:

    As a club coach and former college coach, I wonder how much of the freshman injury factor comes from the swimmers “checking out” after finishing their college search and deciding where they are going. I am constantly surprised and disappointed (especially for swimmers on scholarship) with how many of the graduating seniors disappear for most of the summer prior to the start of college and don’t train enough to prepare for college swimming.

    I am likewise shocked at how many college coaches send their incoming freshmen summer weightlifting routines without any instruction, nor supervision, to ensure the exercises are being done correctly.

    I would guess that both situations contribute to the freshmen injury rate being higher.

  3. mikeh says:

    Another good reason to start swimmers on some sort of resistance training before college.

  4. KT says:

    Read the research paper. Overall about 70% of swimmers got hurt. Only 1 swimmer quit in their study after an injury. This happened over the span of 5 years of study at Iowa with 2 different Head Coaches and staffs. Ironically, these results line up with another study they reference.

    As a club coach, I’m really unhappy if more than 1 or 2 swimmers of 30+ gets injured during training. That’s way less than a 10% injury rate. If even a quarter of my swimmers were getting hurt I’d be hung out to dry! And I’ve produced multiple top-10 list swimmers each season. I will say dryland (particularly running, plyos, stadiums) leads to a lot of those injuries.

    I realize this isn’t everyone’s experience, but it goes to show some of the problems with college coaching and their weight programs. I think a lot of the accountability for positive results and individual coaching gets thrown out the window at the college level. The paradigm shifts from parents/swimmers as valued customers (who have options) to kids having the “privilege” to be on your team. It’s a lot easier to brown-nose your AD to cover bad results than it is to answer for them!

    I’ve seen many solid, high-grade club swimmers chewed up and spat out by careless college coaches and poorly-designed training programs in every Division. Certainly good points by Olivier and SwimCoach12 on swimmer responsibility, but how about the coaches?!

    The study authors chalk up the injuries to “increased yardage” and “cross-training” like strength training and dryland. Other studies have shown college programs only squeeze something like 3% performance improvement or so out of the average swimmer. So the question remains: do the ends–mediocre improvements–justify the extreme injury rates?

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About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out.A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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