Get into the Swing: How to Avoid Golf Injuries

Golfing is a popular summer time activity that can cause injury from acute damage or long-term wear and tear, but these simple tips can keep you out of the doctor’s office and on the green.

Golfing is a popular sport with men and women of all ages, and as it continues to grow in popularity so do the number of injuries sustained by participating in golf-related activities. Though acute (sudden) injures can occur, golf is prone to overuse injuries because the same muscles, tendons, and ligaments are used over and over for a golfer to swing the club. These injuries can occur because the body is not properly prepared to play golf or if the player is unfamiliar with good technique.

“Most golf injuries are caused by poor body mechanics or a lack of conditioning,” Kris Westra, P.T., and coordinator of the Golf Performance Program at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, said in a press release. “Improper warm-up, limited strength and flexibility, and poor swing technique are also contributing factors.”

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) golfing most often causes injuries to the hands, wrist, arm, elbow, and shoulder. This is because a drive is a high-power movement that requires a significant amount of effort that stresses the body. Though the body can handle many of the forces placed on it by participating in athletic activities, when the forces are enacted repeatedly damage can start to occur. Over time, swinging a golf club can injure the muscles and connective tissue in the arm and shoulder causing pain and inflammation.

To avoid the most common golf injuries like golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis), shoulder pain, back pain, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome, the AAOS recommends that golfers give themselves a break once in a while by visualizing their swing, and working to improve their game based on their past performances, rather than going to the driving range to swing again and again.

Technique is an important part of golf injury prevention. Players who do not know the correct ways to swing their golf club are more likely to sustain an injury. It is also important to have a smooth swing, players who hit the ground, in addition to causing divots, put acute strain on their muscles that can travel from the club up into the arm and shoulder. Poor body positioning can also play a role in golf related injury. Back injuries can occur by bending over too much when swinging the golf club. Golf instructors can analyze your technique to help you develop the proper moves to help reduce your risk of sustaining an injury.

Being prepared to play is another critical component to golf injury prevention. Conditioning can help make muscles strong and flexible so the can better handle the stress and strain of a game of golf. “A golf-specific fitness program can not only help individuals avoid or minimize injury, but may actually help improve your game,” says Westra. “It is equally important to stretch lower body muscle groups and joints, because an effective golf swing motion starts from the ground up.”

The AAOS also recommends that golfers give themselves 15-minutes to warm up by performing a cardio-vascular workout that also stretches the hamstrings, calves, shoulders, torso, and back. The cool-down period is also important; players should stretch all of their muscle groups again after a game. Players should never rush to get through a swing, taking your time is a key way to make sure you are using the right body positioning and techniques to swing the golf club properly.

Lastly, the AAOS says that golfers should never feel the need to play through the pain. If you believe you have a golf-related injury you should seek medical attention from a sports medicine specialist to get to the root of the problem.
-Erin Podolak

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