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HSS Helps Keep Your Spine Safe During Summer Water Sports

Dr. Andrew Sama of HSS.
Dr. Andrew Sama of HSS. Photo Credit: Hospital for Special Surgery

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Some of the most popular summer sports take place in the water, including swimming, diving and rowing. However, many people may not realize that participation in water sports can pose health risks to an athlete’s spine, especially among those who are seriously committed to these sports.

The spine serves as the axis of the body with all of the extremities attached to it and as the core of motion and stability. Each of the spine's four areas are comprised of bones, discs, facet joints and ligaments. The bony spine protects the cord and the nerves that emanate from it.

Competitive swimmers and rowers train around the clock to endure the chronic, repetitive movements of their sports. Despite their strong core, these athletes can become prone to injury. Back injuries seem to be more common among rowers than swimmers since rowing techniques involve nearly all of a rower’s trunk, arm and leg muscles. Swimmers are more prone to shoulder or hip injuries, but can also sustain spinal muscle strains. Overuse and straining can lead to back pain and limitation of the athlete’s ability to perform, creating the need to see an orthopedic specialist.

When it comes to preventing injury, there are several steps that athletes should take in their daily routines. The most important aspects to consider include body mechanics and condition training, which requires maintaining good head and neck positions while keeping the spine in the neutral position during the sport. Proper stretching is important both before and after competition. Additionally, cross training can help strengthen muscles to optimize performance during a sporting event and help prevent injury.

Dr. Andrew Sama specializes in the evaluation and surgical management of all traumatic, degenerative, and deformity-related conditions of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbosacral spine. He practices at both the HSS Outpatient Center in Stamford and the hospital’s main campus in New York.