How to prevent golf injuries
Golf is largely considered a low impact and low risk sport, but more than 100,000 people visit their doctor’s office or the emergency room for golf related injuries every year. S. Wendell Holmes Jr., MD, shared some common golf injuries and easy ways to prevent them.
“Most golf injuries are broken down into two categories, acute injuries experienced on the golf course or chronic injuries experienced from overuse,” said Dr. Holmes.
Overuse injuries are the result of repetitive actions such as swinging the golf club. The repeated stress is placed on the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Common overuse injuries include:
- Golfer’s elbow or medial epicondylitis. This is a chronic injury to the elbow that many golfers experience. The injury is due to inflammation of the flexor/pronator tendons on the inside part of the elbow.
- Back pain. Most back pain injuries are not true spinal injuries, but the result of deconditioned muscles in the back being overworked in golf swings. Poor mechanics and not warming up contribute to muscular inflammation and soreness.
- Knee pain. Most knee injuries are rotational/twisting injuries resulting in a torn meniscus or ligament strain.
- Wrist and hand. Either wrist sprains or acute fractures can take place with golf clubs striking a hard surface such as rocks or tree roots.
- Ankle. Injuries around the ankle can be as simple as ankle sprains or as complex as ankle fractures. These injuries can sideline golfers for weeks to months depending on the severity.
How can you prevent common injuries while playing golf?
- Golfer’s elbow or medial epicondylitis. Golfer’s elbow is best prevented by exercising the forearm muscles. This can be done easily with wrist curls, reverse wrist curls and grip exercises, such as squeezing tennis balls or racquet balls, on a weekly basis. The stronger the forearm muscles, the less likely the stress from golf will result in inflammation.
- Back pain. Back injuries can be prevented with core workouts, stretching and warming up. A simple at-home exercise routine consisting of planks, crunches, wall squats and push-ups helps to keep the core strong. Athletes and golfers also often neglect stretching which is important. Stretching for 10 minutes several times a week can be very beneficial to overall core and back health. Lastly, a proper warm-up routine prior to golf is also important. Before playing golf it is vital to go through a slow and controlled range of motion flexion/extension and twisting routine to ensure that your muscles are loose and activated prior to activity.
- Knee pain. Knee injuries are frequently related to twisting injuries while golfers are in the squatting position. The best way to avoid these injuries is to avoid deep squats combined with twisting motions.
- Wrist and hand. Wrist and hand injuries are best prevented with proper form and mechanics as well as avoiding hazardous golf shots on tree roots or rocks. These hard surfaces transmit force and increase the risk of injury to the joints and bones.
- Ankle. Ankle injuries are most commonly the result of twisting the ankle while walking on uneven ground or in soft sand. Be cautious while walking around the course looking for your golf ball or finding a good stance to hit the ball.
“Proper technique, exercise, stretching and warming up before play are all critical to prevention of injury,” said Dr. Holmes. “Most professional golfers spend a significant part of their training time on fitness including stretching, strengthening and aerobic exercise to optimize their golf performance. Also, consulting a golf professional, in addition to improving your handicap, can reduce chances of injury through a more controlled, smoother golf swing.”
When should you seek care for a golf injury?
Any golfer who sustains an acute injury or becomes symptomatic with chronic overuse pain should speak with their primary care doctor and seek orthopedic care. Fractures and severe sprains require immobilization and, in some cases, surgery, so the evaluation by a doctor is necessary. Overuse and inflammation injuries, such as golfer’s elbow, can mostly be treated with activity modification and simple medications.
“It is important to work with your orthopedic doctor after an injury so you can get back on the golf course and prevent further injury,” said Dr. Holmes.
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