Children's Hospital Colorado

How to Overcome a Swimming Shoulder Injury Like Missy Franklin

A teenager swims in a lane pool wearing a swim cap and goggles.

We have a hometown hero in London right now. Missy Franklin is representing Team USA and Colorado with her wonderful smile, charisma, and of course, several Olympic medals.

But I wonder: how does she do it?

Well, I know she swims faster than everyone else in the pool. But, from the perspective of an athletic trainer, I wonder how she can swim thousands of meters every week with an overuse shoulder injury. Working in a high school, I have spent a lot of time with swimmers in the athletic training room while the rest of the team is at practice. And I am still not 100% sure how she does it, but I do have a few ideas that may help young swimmers, like Missy, keep those shoulders strong and healthy. Below are a few of them.

Quality over quantity

Using proper technique in all exercise that you do should always take precedence over how much you can do. Work closely with your coach to refine your form in every stroke. If form is wavering, stop. With lots of practice, you will be able to maintain proper form throughout long and fast workouts. Let me tell you, your shoulders with thank you for it.

Solid warm up

At the Olympics, there is a warm up/swim down pool that they always talk about but never show. It is there for a reason. Missy doesn’t hop off of the bus from Olympic village and go straight to the starting blocks. She always does a proper warm up. During your warm up, start slow and concentrate on the technique you and your coach have been working so hard to perfect. Learn more about dynamic stretching to incorporate into your warm up.


In swimming, shoulder injuries are very common. Instead of waiting for a shoulder injury to occur and then performing rehab, take some time now to do those same exercises. Call it “prehab” if you want. Include some rotator cuff, and shoulder and core strengthening exercises into your daily routine. They work great as part of your warm up, or hop out of the pool between sets to squeeze few in, almost like circuit training.


Exercise is about the work you do, not the rest you take, right? Wrong. Anytime you put stress on your body, you need to recover. To get the benefits of rest you don’t always have to lay on the couch. Rather, you can do a different, low intensity routine, like jumping on a stationary bike, going for a hike (check out the top 5 hikes in the Denver area) or playing a game of soccer with friends. Let those shoulders take a break and allow your whole body to recover.

Eat right

For your body to get stronger it needs the proper building blocks, which comes in the form of food. Eating the right foods in the right quantity is a very important part of staying healthy and continuing to make improvements. Missy must eat almost as much as Michael Phelps does to stay healthy during all of her training. Here are some resourceful blog posts from our experts that can help you get started.

Training for any sport can be a challenge. Realistically, however, the only way that you will be able to spend as much time in the pool as Missy is to stay healthy. I hope you can incorporate a few of these ideas into your training and realize that proper training and good health are the best ways to avoid the risk of a shoulder injury.

Check out more sports safety articles.