Golf injuries can result from a variety of causes, or a combination of factors. Most injuries occur as a result of excessive activity. A typical 4-5 hour round of golf can be physically demanding, an individual will be in a slightly bent over stance, performing the same repetitive motion many times and possibly carrying their golf bag and clubs on their back or over the shoulder. In addition, golf is one of the only sports that does not require running or jumping but it is extremely physically demanding on the body’s rotational system (neck, back and hips).
In most cases, the rate and severity of injury will increase with age, frequency of play, and lack of appropriate treatment. One may find slight relief and improvements with rest and oral anti-inflammatory medications, but greater benefits will come with mechanical changes, and an incorporated program of stretching and strengthening. If you are unsure of the proper swing mechanics then set up a meeting with a PGA Professional for a lesson. You should also speak with your local sports medicine physical therapist that can make recommendations on muscular stretching and strengthening exercises targeted to improve your body mechanics for golf. Taking care of injuries early on will lead to increased time on the course with less discomfort.
There are a variety of components that can cause back pain. The golf swing provides for a significant amount of torso rotation, applying stress to the spine and muscles throughout the back. If during that rotation you are bending too much, arching your back too much, or over swinging, this can result in back pain and/or injury. Good neutral spine positions and increases in range of motion to the spine and hip may aid in decreasing back pain.
Another potential contributor to back pain is carrying a golf bag. This can be good exercise but we recommend utilizing a bag with two shoulder straps for more even spinal weight distribution. If it appears that carrying your bag is a big factor in your back pain then take a break for a while and try a pull cart or rent a golf cart.
Pain on the inside of the elbow may be medial epicondylitis or “golfer’s elbow”. When the tendons are irritated or inflamed, this can cause pain and disability. This injury can result from poor swing mechanics or hitting shots “fat” or hitting the ground before the ball. Work with your professional to improve swing mechanics. There are also small elbow braces that can be very effective in redirecting some of the force away from the injured tissues.
Wrist Tendon Strains
The tendons that move the wrist up and down, the flexors and extensors, are more often injured in the lead wrist when at impact position. This is an overuse injury that can be due to ones grip on the club, angles at impact, and strength of the forearm which can contribute to high stress to the tendons around the wrist.
A variety of shoulder injuries can occur while participating in the sport of golf; strain, impingement, arthritis, and tendonitis. The repetitive motion of the golf swing, and the range of motion that the shoulder withstands can result in these injuries. Also, swinging clubs that are too big or with poor mechanics, can result in excess stress to the shoulder.
Before beginning your round of golf, or taking swings at the driving range, warm up and stretch!!! This is especially important if you have an early tee time, you’ve been sitting in the car during a long drive to course, and for ample preparation for 9 or18 holes of play.
Some stretches to include in your routine:
- Neck rotations
- Trunk rotations/torso twists
- Arm swings
- Major muscle group stretches (quads, hamstrings, pecs)
- Driving range/open space to swing (small bucket of balls)
Maintaining proper golf posture will aid in injury prevention. Stand with your feet roughly shoulder width apart. Allow your weight to be distributed evenly on each foot. Do not bend at the waist and hunch over the ball which would increase your risk of back or neck injury. Always try to keep a neutral spinal position (the same position the spine is in when you are standing upright) when addressing the ball.
Keep your Swing Smooth
While hitting the ball, try to remain relaxed and take a smooth, fluid swing. Practice your swing to gain consistency of proper motion and form. If you are unsure of the proper swing mechanics then work with a local PGP professional. If they feel you also have physical limitations then seek out your local sports medicine physical therapist to assist you in the process of getting a smoother swing.
Seek your local PGA Professional who can make recommendations on the best set of clubs for you! Taking into account past injuries, or your swing style, different clubs may be just what you need to improve your game and health! When it comes to golf clubs it is important to remember that one size doesn’t fit each individual golfer.
ProEx employees are equally excited to get back out on the range, and hitting the links as the weather begins to warm. Our passion is to keep you safe and healthy while participating in sports. Please visit with your local ProEx Physical Therapist with your golf injury concerns.