5 Tips for Bouncing Back From Injury

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.

There are fewer things in the world more frustrating than being sidelined from the sport you love with an injury. While your teammates train and get better you are sitting in the stands in crutches, feeling helpless and frustrated.

SEE ALSO: How to Prevent Swimmer’s Shoulder

Here are 5 tips to help you bounce back from injury:

1. There will be ups, and there will be downs.

Over the course of the recuperation you will go through a roller coaster of positive and negative emotions.

There will be positive moments where you feel better enough to tempt jumping right back into the swing of things. More often than not our excitement to get back into the water leads to a re-aggravation or worsening of the original injury.

The most pronounced swings are the downs that come with missing or cutting back on training. Some days you will even feel worse, which may lead you to ignoring rehab work because you feel that things have become utterly hopeless.

Do your best to keep an even keel over the course of your recuperation through both the highs and the lows so that you can come off the IR in a timely manner.

2. Rehab takes place outside of the therapist’s office too.

It can be tempting to test the limits of your injuries, especially on those days where you are feeling even better than usual. Be intelligent about the lifestyle decisions you are making outside of your rehab work so that you can facilitate a faster recovery.

Things like sleep, nutrition, extra-curricular activities on the weekends, will all assist in determining how fast you heal up or not.

3. Be determined to come back even stronger.

Yes, it totally and completely blows that you are injured. But guess what? It happens to everyone, including the best swimmers in the world.

Ryan Lochte tore his MCL and strained his ACL just last fall. Michael Phelps broke his wrist less than a year out from the Beijing Olympics. James Magnussen, the fastest 100m freestyler in the history of the sport in a textile, has lived with a degenerative back disease for a number of years.

What matters not necessarily is what happens to you, but how you decide to deal with, and how you decide to come back from it.

See Also: How to Fix and Prevent Breaststroker’s Knee

4. Participate.

Probably the surest way to insure that you don’t re-injure yourself in the same manner is to educate yourself on the injury you’ve been dealt. Feel free to pepper your therapist and/or doctor with questions to get a clear a grasp on what happened. Because once you know why it did, you are more likely to seek out preventative measures in the future.

  • What happened?
  • Why did this injury happen?
  • Is this a common injury (with swimmers)?
  • What do I have to do in the future to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

At the end of the day, it is your body so it would behoove you to educate yourself on how it works, and also how it breaks down.

5. Never Again.

In the event of an injury your coach, physical therapist and/or doctor should provide a prehab routine. These are helpful especially in the case of chronic injuries (ahem, shoulders), and should be continued long after the injury has fully healed up.

The only thing possibly more frustrating than getting injured is knowing that you had the tools and mechanisms to prevent it, and didn’t use it. Make prehab a part of your daily workout routine moving forward, and you will decrease the likelihood of that injury becoming a chronic one.

About YourSwimBook

YourSwimBook is a log book and goal setting guide designed specifically for competitive swimmers. It includes a ten month log book, comprehensive goal setting section, monthly evaluations to be filled out with your coach, and more. Learn 8 more reasons why this tool kicks butt.

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5 years ago

Good article – Managed to get good times for my age doing swim sprints (nearly 50) and gen fitness was pretty amazing too. Then times started to increase from 50 secs 50 meters to 65 secs despite training increasing and stamina increasing. I was ready to go for blood tests but doc advised that shoulder injury was most probable explanation, I discovered limited mobility of left shoulder, after trying a few simple exercises . After a month mobility has gotten better but still unable to attempt the crawl but trying to motivate myself to keep breast stroke and kick board work going for stamina and fitness but quite difficult to motivate myself. I know the answer is to keep doing… Read more »

Lyndsay Freybourger
5 years ago

Many thanks for writing this article. I’m getting back in the pool for the first time this morning after 2 months out post external oblique tear.

I had planned to just get straight back to it. But after reading your advice, I’m seriously considering ditching any constructive session plan & just seeing how it all “feels” being back in the water. ?

Cheers again.

8 years ago

My son is 11, and is coming back from a shoulder injury he got rough housing with friends. Apparently, bones can get “soft” when you are going through a growth spurt and he bent his callarbone. Because of how muscular he is in the shoulder compared to most kids, and the fact that butterfly and breast are his favorite strokes, the more he swam the worse it got. He had 6 months of therapy 3 days a week, and was just allowed to do kick board for 45 minutes 2 days. During that period most of his friends leveled up, and the 2 older boys that mentored him moved away. He is religious about doing his therapy exercises every day,… Read more »

Rules rule!
Reply to  Monica
6 years ago

Tell him to keep the faith, shoulder injuries take time and require a long period of recovery. Good posture, and heading slowly are more important to the shoulder because bad technique from being fatigued can make it a nagging issue. Using this injury to concentrate on great technique can actual make you a better swimmer…instead of a wall to success it’s a tool to learning. Both my kids came back better on the other side…but it took patience and attention to detail. Great posture out the pool is key as well!

9 years ago


I am a master swimmer dealing with a tendinopathy of the long head of the biceps.

It started on February 8th, and I did two MRI and been visited by a shoulder surgeon. As I live abroad I did not have the chance to be be visited by a doctor promptly and got suggestions from a physioterapist who indicated to rest and do some gentle exercises to strenghten the rotator cuff muscle. I avoided swimming from April to July when I have been visited by the shoulder surgeon. He told there is no sign of damage from the MRI and I can gently swim below the pain level and tha the tendinopathy can be solved in several months.… Read more »

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

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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