Sink or Swim? Clinical Objective Tests and Measures Associated with Shoulder Pain in Swimmers of Varied Age Levels of Competition: A Systematic Review.
Kennedy J, Otley T, Hendren S, Myers H, Tate A.
Background: Swimming is enjoyed by athletes of all ages, and shoulder pain is a common problem. Clinicians identify impairments which impact shoulder pain and these impairments may differ depending on the swimmer’s age competition level.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate objective measures utilized to assess swimmers and assess the relationship of test values to shoulder pain in distinct age groups/competition levels. A secondary aim was to report normative/expected values for these tests.
Design: Systematic review
Methods: PRISMA methodology was employed to assess studies evaluating clinical tests and measures associated with shoulder pain for swimmers in varied age competition levels. The Methodological Index for Non-Randomized Studies instrument was used to evaluate the quality of the included studies, and a qualitative synthesis of findings was conducted to determine the strength of the evidence in four age competition levels for nine objective measures. Distinct cut points for proposed measures were identified.
Results: Twenty-seven studies were included in the analysis and the majority were of moderate quality in adolescent/adult swimmers. Youth swimmers had limited evidence for the development of shoulder pain associated with scapular position/dyskinesia, weakness of periscapular muscles, low endurance of core muscles, and moderate evidence for shoulder pain associated with laxity and altered range of motion (ROM). Adolescent/adult swimmers demonstrated limited evidence for a positive association between developing shoulder pain if there is a low eccentric ER:concentric IR ratio, and moderate evidence for pectoralis minor tightness and glenohumeral laxity. There were limited studies regarding masters swimmers to derive conclusive evidence. Cut points were identified from the included studies but these have not been validated in other studies.
Conclusion: Swimmers of various ages may have different objective clinical tests and measures associated with the risk for developing shoulder pain. More studies are needed to fully understand risk factors for shoulder pain in the masters swim competition level, and to validate recommended cut points for various tests and measures.
Key level of evidence: 3, Systematic review of mostly Level 3 studies.