Golf requires a lot of time and effort, not to mention a great deal of skill, mental fortitude and perseverance to excel at it. The explosive nature of the swing can put a tremendous amount of stress on the body, and a majority of professional golfers have experienced some sort of nagging injury at one time or another in their careers. But you don’t have to be a professional to experience some of the most common injuries in golf. Even casual golfers can sustain injuries. Many injuries can be prevented.
Experts in sports medicine note a number of factors that contribute to common golf swing injuries:
An estimated 75 to 85 percent of all Americans will experience some form of back pain during their lifetime, and the numbers may be higher among golfers. The rotational stresses of the swing can place considerable pressure on the spine and muscles.
Compound that with the fact that golfers spend four to five hours in a bent-over stance, repeating the same motion hundreds of times, it is no wonder that playing golf can cause minor strains in the back that can easily lead to severe injuries. To keep your back healthy for golf, add exercises that stretch and strengthen your back.
Tendinitis in the elbow is commonly referred to in sports terms. “Tennis elbow” refers to irritation and inflammation of the outer tendon, while “golf elbow” refers to irritation and inflammation of the inner tendon. Strangely, more golfers suffer from tennis elbow than golf elbow, but the result can still be very painful.
To prevent tendinitis of either sort, make sure you are using proper swing techniques when you practice. Tendinitis shows up after overuse of the tendons involved, so be sure to rotate your practice regimen to allow your elbows and arms to get adequate rest.
Treating tendinitis is usually fairly simple, although you might have to grit your teeth and put the clubs away while you allow your body to heal. The goals are to reduce inflammation, gently strengthen the muscles and tendons, and correct your swing technique so you don’t do this to yourself again.
As you stabilize the rotation of the hip axis at the beginning of a swing, you can end up putting a lot of stress and strain on a weak knee. Knee injuries vary in type and severity, and it’s no secret that knees suffer more as you age. If you are noticing knee pain during your game, visit your doctor sooner rather than later!
To prevent knee pain, gently stretch your calves, hamstrings, thighs, and core muscles before heading out for a round. Wear quality shoes with good arch support, and use a brace if you feel weakness or twinges.
If you already suffer from knee pain, you’ll need a doctor to diagnose the exact problem and help you decide on a course of treatment. If you ignore knee pain, you can end up doing incredible damage, which has the potential of greatly affecting your ability to play.
Pain may be felt in the shoulder or upper arm at various phases of the golf swing, or following play, often during the night and when extending arms overhead.
Injuries to the rotator cuff can be sustained through traumatic force resulting from a poorly executed golf swing, hitting a root or rock, taking a deep divot, and from overuse. Golfers can develop tendinitis, bursitis, and tears in the rotator cuff due to the repetitive motion of the golf swing.
Rotator cuff injuries are usually treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. In some instances, surgical repair becomes necessary. In these cases, modifications to the golf swing, combined with strength conditioning could alleviate symptoms and prevent further injury.
The repetitive motions of golf, and the high speed of the typical swing can place wrists at a high risk for injury. Pain and tenderness on the top of the wrist, experienced at the top of the backswing and at impact, are common.
The most common golf-related wrist injury is tendinitis, or swelling of the tendons responsible for wrist movement. Many wrist injuries, as well as other golf-related injuries, can be prevented by a pre-season and year-round golf-specific conditioning program.
Much as with wrist injuries, the repetitive motions of golf, and the high speed of the typical swing can place the hands and fingers at high risk for injury.
Repetitive blunt trauma or single severe trauma to the fingers can lead to numerous conditions such as tendinitis, broken or deformed bones and a condition called hypothenar hammer syndrome, or HHS.
Learning the proper grip, avoiding long periods of ball bashing, and not hitting balls off of artificial mats can prevent all these injuries. See also: Golf Grip Tips for more ideas in proper golf grip.
Neck injuries are common in new golfers who are not used to twisting their bodies so much. After a few hours of swinging the club and hitting balls, the neck muscles may shorten in spasm and freeze the neck into a painful position.
Again, like most injuries, neck injuries can be prevented by first warming up the muscles, taking frequent breaks while playing or practicing, and slowly working up to longer periods of practice and play. The primary goal of an exercise program for your neck is to strengthen and stretch the shoulders and upper back.
Throughout the golf swing, the body acts as a whip; power production starts with the feet pushing against the ground. Each foot moves differently during a golf swing.
The back foot must allow for more pronation during the follow- through of the golf swing than the front foot. Injuries can occur when the golfer looses his or her footing or balance during the swing, while performing the swing with the improper swing mechanics, and when hitting a ball off an uneven surface.
Sprains in the ankles, tendinitis in the ankle and foot bones, and inflammation and blisters are common injuries that can be sustained while playing golf. Wearing properly fitted golf shoes and improving swing mechanics are the best ways to prevent foot and ankle injuries.
The hip joint is usually very mobile and able to withstand large amounts of loading stresses, but is particularly vulnerable to injury during golf, since the swing involves a tremendous amount of pivoting and twisting movements.
During the golf swing, the hip is subjected to repeated adduction and flexion/extension forces. This requires a great deal of control throughout the gluteal muscles and the adductor muscle complex. It is these rotational and shear forces that cause injuries such as groin strains and low back injuries.
The hip joint is very similar to the shoulder joint or rotator cuff, so the injuries sustained to the hip are very similar to the tears that occur to the rotator cuff. Again, warming up muscles before play is imperative to preventing injury, as is adding flexibility and strength to the muscles that surround the hip joint and socket. (Jack Nicklaus and Peter Jacobsen had hip replacements.)
Skin is the largest organ of the body, and the most vulnerable to damage while playing golf. Repeated exposure to the sun can lead to skin damage and even skin cancer.
Since golfers typically spend four to five hours exposed to the sun – often during the hottest part of the day – they are most likely to injure their skin through sunburns.
Prevention is the best defense against the sun. Always apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, and reapply often during the round.
Wear a hat, sunglasses and protective clothing if you are going to spend long periods of time out in the sun. You can find some of the amazing golf equipments and the like on online stores like golfgearsdirect.com.au
Preventing the most common golf injuries can be done by working on improving swing mechanics, participating in golf-specific conditioning programs, buying properly fitted equipment, avoiding long practice sessions, always performing a warm up routine before practice and play, and (golf-specific) stretching frequently.
Approximately 44 percent of all reported golf injuries in youth are from overuse. The main causes of these injuries include:
Poor flexibility is a key risk factor for a golf injury. One survey showed that more than 80 percent of golfers spent less than 10 minutes warming up before a round. Those who did warm up had less than half the incidence of injuries of those who did not warm up before playing.
The golf swing is broken down into four phases: backswing, downswing, acceleration/ball strike, and follow through. Any limitations in range of motion (ROM) will hamper the golfer's ability to achieve the proper swing plane, thus increasing the stress on the involved joints and muscles.
The second main reason for golf injuries is the repetitive nature of this sport. The golf swing involves repetitive, high-velocity movement of the neck, shoulders, spine, elbow, wrist, hips, knees, and ankles. The percentage of injuries directly correlates with the number of rounds or the number of range/practice balls struck per week.
To avoid golf injuries at any age level, it is important for the golfer to develop a solid swing technique. The golfer who plays with a poor swing technique will have an increased risk of injury due to the excessive stress placed on their back, shoulders, and elbows. All golfers, no matter the age level, should have a specific routine of stretching/flexibility exercises they perform prior to starting each round. Along with their stretching/ flexibility exercises, they should always hit some golf balls before a game, starting with the wedge and gradually working their way up to the driver. You should never just grab the driver and go!
Seek the advice of a sports medicine specialist in your area if any injury occurs to get an accurate diagnosis and prevent recurrent problems. You should return to the course or range only when clearance is granted by a health care professional.
Always warm up before a round of golf. A good warm up prepares your body for more intense activity by getting your blood flowing and raising your muscle temperature. Before you play golf, do some simple stretching exercises, focusing on your shoulders, back, and legs.
Then hit a few golf balls on the driving range. It will not only help your game, but will help prevent injury in the long run.
Although a good warm up is essential for all golfers, it is especially important if you have arthritis that is aggravated by playing golf. To help prevent arthritis pain while out on the course, some golfers may benefit from taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or naproxen before or after playing. Your doctor can talk with you about whether this is appropriate in your case.
Whether golf is a new interest or a lifelong passion, make the most of your time on the course by protecting yourself from golf injuries. Consider it all part of the game.