Australian swimming's golden girl Stephanie Rice is considering surgery on the troublesome shoulder that is threatening to derail her build-up to the 2012 London Olympics.
Rice has been plagued in recent months by a swollen bursa in her right shoulder, with the problem forcing her to skip her pet individual medley events in a reduced program at this month's Pan Pacs in the US.
The triple Olympic gold medallist revealed on Tuesday the mysterious injury first appeared on the eve of the Beijing Games in 2008 and had worsened noticeably in the past two years.
Rice has been getting by with painful cortisone injections but, with an eye on defending her 200 and 400IM titles in London, has sought advice on possible surgery after the Delhi Commonwealth Games in October.
"It's definitely something I've considered and I've looked down that path because it's been frustrating and I don't want to have to deal with this for the next two years leading into 2012," Rice said.
"I want everything to be on track for that.
"I've looked at it and had a few MRIs.. but I haven't made a yes or no decision on that yet because I'm just kind of seeing how it goes."
Rice said she was puzzled as to the cause of the injury, which most recently flared up after nationals in March.
"I don't know what triggered it but it flared up again and I really haven't been able to shake it off, it's been constant and I've had an injection seven times now," Rice said.
"I've been told I'm not allowed to have any more injections in it so I guess that's a little bit of a worry and it's frustrating for me to not know why it's so bad and what I've got to do to get rid of it."
Rice has opted to skip this week's training camp in San Diego and stay in Sydney for more treatment before meeting up with her Australian teammates in Irvine, California on Sunday.
She plans to limit her schedule at the Pan Pacs to sprint events including the 50m and 100m butterfly, 50m backstroke and 100m freestyle in order to nurse herself through to Delhi.
Rice admitted dropping the medley events was disappointing given her times in the 200 and 400IM at nationals in March, when she was at "85 per cent" fitness, remained faster than swims by any of her American rivals this year.
But she said skipping Pan Pacs, or Commonwealth Games, entirely never entered her mind.
"It would be extremely disappointing to miss those competitions, but the focus has definitely changed a lot this year," Rice said.
"... The past month I've had to refocus my goals and sort of take the focus off Pan Pacs and gear up a bit better for Comm Games."
Rice said she would definitely contest the medley events at the Delhi Games and will have her work cut out after British rival Hannah Miley (4:33.09) swam the fastest 400IM time this year at the European Championships in Budapest on Monday.
Meanwhile, dual Olympian Patrick Murphy was forced to withdraw from Australia's Pan Pacs squad on Tuesday due to a virus.