David B. Gealt, DO, a Cooper University Hospital sports medicine physician with Cooper Bone and Joint Institute, answers some frequently asked questions about golf-related injuries and prevention.
What are the most common golf injuries?
The golf swing and stroke involve the coordinated movement of the whole body. Because golf is a full-body sport, injuries occur in many different areas. The most common types of injuries occur in the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders and low back.
Why do low-back injuries occur while playing golf?
During the coordinated movement of the golf swing, the low back – or lumbar region – is subjected to movements and rotations that strain the lower back. . We have seen that amateurs tend to swing harder, instead of more skillfully, to hit the ball farther. When they do this, it increases the stress on the back and tends to lead to low-back injuries. As you get older, you also have an increased opportunity for arthritis as your spine becomes less flexible. Good body and swing mechanics is essential for prevention of low-back injuries.
What is golfer’s elbow?
Golfer’s elbow, known as medial epicondylitis, is pain and inflammation due to an overuse of the muscles on the inside of the elbow. Golfers with this injury often have pain on the inside of the elbow when they push their hands together, as well as tenderness on the medial epicondyle (the bony bump on the elbow). Incidences of golfer’s elbow are usually due to overuse; strong grip on the clubs; and golfers who take large divots, putting an increased amount of stress on the elbow. This injury is usually linked to an increased frequency of rounds played per week or even per day. As you age, your likelihood of exceeding your physical threshold is much higher.
What are the causes of shoulder injuries in golf?
Shoulder injuries usually occur by overuse rather than any specific component of the swing itself. The leading shoulder is subject to an extreme range of motion, which increases the risk of injury. We tend to see more shoulder muscle strains, bursitis or rotator cuff injuries, including tendonitis and tears, as golfers age or with increased rounds of golf per week.
What are some of the signs and symptoms of these shoulder injuries?
Some golfers will have pain when starting to lift their arm to the side, sometimes with radiating pain down the arm out to the elbow. There may be tenderness on the outer aspect of the shoulder joint when touched during physical exam. Some people have severe pain just before and just after the arm is horizontal, yet others will have pain when lying on the injured side at night or weakness in the affected arm. With any of these symptoms, a patient should be evaluated by a physician.
How can golf injuries be prevented?
Like many injuries, prevention starts with proper warm up, stretching exercises that are specific to the sport of golf, strengthening exercises with an endurance base, and the utilization of good body mechanics and swing mechanics. Utilization of proper equipment also is a necessity. A five-minute warm up prior to playing is essential as well, with an emphasis on the wrists, shoulders, and back. Remember, proper posture plus proper technique will aid in injury prevention and a longer time playing your sport.