stroke flaws common in collegiate swimmers

Biomechanical Flaws Are Common in College Swimmers

admin Dr. John Mullen, Members, Research Abstract Leave a Comment

Elite swimmers are believed to have ideal biomechanics, yet many in the swimming

community recognize these swimmers have flaws. This study analyzed one collegiate team’s swimming.

Virag (2014) analyzed thirty-one collegiate swimmers (~20 years; ~179.17 cm; ~75.43 kg) from the University of North Carolina participated in this study. Swimmers who could not complete entire practices due to pain were excluded in this study.

Each swimmer swam freestyle for 1 length of the swimming pool at a pace of 50 – 75% of their maximal speed. Each swimmer was recorded for two trials. Of the trials, one stroke cycle was selected for analysis. The following parameters were used in the study:

Two swim coaches and a certified athletic trainer examined the swimming strokes of the swimmers.

The most common biomechanical errors were a dropped elbow during the pull-through phase (61.3%) and a dropped elbow during the recovery phase (53.2%). Incorrect head position and hand entry during the hand entry phase occurred at 46.8% and 45.2%. Incorrect hand entry angles and pull-through patterns occurred at 38.7% and 32.3%.

There were significant associations between a dropped elbow during the recovery phase and a thumb-first hand entry. An incorrect hand entry and dropped elbow during the recovery phase, and eyes-forward head and an incorrect pull-through pattern.

Incorrect biomechanics are common in elite swimmers. These errors feed into other errors, potentially increasing shoulder stress and injury.

Practical Implication

Collegiate swimmers have numerous swimming biomechanical errors which may increase shoulder stress. Improved biomechanics and motor learning strategies are mandatory for youth swimmers, continuing throughout their career for reducing this high rate.

However, the inter- and intra-rater reliability of these coaches and trainers must be highlighted, as no formal education on swimming biomechanics exist, suggesting they likely assess biomechanics differently.


  1. Virag B, Hibberd EE, Oyama S, Padua DA, Myers JB. Prevalence of Freestyle Biomechanical Errors in Elite Competitive Swimmers. Sports Health. 2014 May;6(3):218-224.

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