Golf is an enjoyable sport. It doesn’t seem to be too rigorous on the body, but injuries continue to happen. According to the The Physician and Sports Medicine Journal, on average golfers sustain two injuries per year, and lose five weeks of playing time.
Common causes of injuries among professionals are overuse, but among the amateurs (I am most certainly in this category) problems are more commonly due to poor technique, especially in swing technique.
The most common injuries occur in the back, followed by the wrist, and shoulder. Amateurs have injuries at the elbow as well, commonly referred to as Golfers Elbow.
Golf Back Injuries
Four out of five golfers will suffer low back pain at some point in their golfing life. Golfers from every part of the world always strive to hit the ball harder, further, straighter. This popular notion requires increased club head speed, and increased rotation in the back. This leaves the player more vulnerable to pain and injuries.
Improving swing technique and physical fitness are the keys to avoiding back pain. Strength, flexibility and endurance all play an important role: fatigue leads to uncoordinated muscle firing, resulting in injuries.
Ways to decrease the occurrence of injuries include:
– Warming-up – which include stretching and core-strengthening work.
A lot of golfers are not going to want to read this, but players with ongoing back pain should change to a smoother swing and accept that the distance may not be as far as Tiger Woods drive. But look on the bright side, you will more likely hit the ball straighter, avoid all the trees and long grass, and avoid the increasing frustration that seems to be inevitable with golf.Years ago when my father was teaching me golf, he used to tell me over and over again – keep eyes on the ball, head down, don’t look up, don’t rotate too much, keep the arm straight….. and RELAX! With all that information filling my head with every shot there was little chance of relaxing.
Golf Wrist and Hand Injuries
Most injuries occur in the leading hand. Overuse or poor wrist control during the swing can cause excessive movement leading to injury.
Golf Elbow Injuries
The most common elbow problem for golfers occurs at the lateral epicondylitis (the outside bone of the elbow). The motion of the left arm during the swing is similar to a backhand in tennis. It is the contraction of the left elbow extensor muscles during impact, to maintain control of the club that usually produces the injury. It is felt by pressing over the extensor muscles 1-2cm further down from the lateral epicondyle.
To stop aggravating the condition, patients will need to modify their activity. Once the symptoms have decreased, golfers should seek advice from a golf professional to reduce grip tension and swing errors. Clubs should have large grips, more flexible shafts (graphite) and heads with larger sweet spots to reduce vibration. A brace on the forearm also reduces vibration.
Medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow) is an overuse syndrome (the inside component of the elbow). Swing technique errors can create excessive stress on the elbow and lead to muscle overload and injury to the flexor forearm muscle group. Patients describe aching pain on the inner side of the elbow, often radiating into the forearm. Patients may also complain of weakness of grip strength.
Treatment is similar to that for lateral epicondylitis. Once symptoms have improved, patients should follow a supervised rehab program. And, as with tennis elbow, the golfer must improve their technique and equipment. Bracing is also helpful.
Golf Shoulder Injuries
Shoulder pain is less common in golf than in overhead sports but overuse injuries are still frequent.
Rotator cuff impairment will often be the cause of shoulder pain in golfers from middle-age upwards. The incidence of rotator cuff tears increases greatly after age 50. Studies have shown that the rotator cuff muscles are very active throughout the golf swing. Repeated aggravation to a weakened tendon may lead to tendinitis; in more severe cases, the golfer will have difficulty elevating the shoulder. Partial rotator cuff tears are far more painful to play through than full tears. Patients will usually complain of pain and tenderness in the front part of the shoulder, stiffness, and a grinding sensation.
Patients with partial-thickness rotator cuff tears should visit their physiotherapist, and start an exercise regime including strengthening and stretching to restore normal flexibility. Those unlucky people with full thickness tears or partial tears greater than 50% should be referred for surgical repair.
Hinterland Physio has a new Golf Program designed by Shayne to decrease golfers injuries, and enable a more effective swing. To learn more about this program, please contact Hinterland Physio on ph. 4972 5155. Shayne has been providing physiotherapy services to Gladstone for the past 5 years.