Introduction to Golf Injuries:
There are some unusual injuries associated with playing golf. Golfers suffer bone-jarring sensations when their clubs strike the ground during a misplaced swing. Low back pain is the most common injury or complaint among both professional and amateur golfers, followed by injuries to upper extremities (elbow & shoulder). Professional golfers experience a higher number of wrist injuries and amateur golfers experience more elbow problems, while both groups have a relatively high rate of shoulder injuries. Low back problems can occur as a result of the powerful rotation and extension motion in the golf swing. In elite golfers, the golf swing can generate club head speeds of over 120 mph. In a study of PGA golfers, 33% had experienced low back problems of greater than two weeks’ duration in the past year. The study also suggests that increasing the range of motion of the lead hip (left hip in right-handed golfers) may decrease the prevalence of low back pain. Golfers who carry their own bag have twice the frequency of back, shoulder, and ankle injuries as those who do not carry their bag. The elbow is the second most commonly injured area in golfers.
The two most common problems are medial epicondylitis (also known as golfer’s or thrower’s elbow). Both are thought to occur as a result of poor swing mechanics. Medial epicondylitis is usual caused by hitting shots “fat” (hitting the ground first), while lateral epicondylitis may be caused by over-swinging with the right hand in right-handed golfers. Both of these problems increase with age and frequency of play. Good pre-round stretching of upper extremity and a good strengthening program have been shown to decrease these problems. In professional golfers, injuries to the low back are followed in commonness by injuries to the wrist. The lead wrist (left wrist in right-handed golfers) is most commonly injured. The majority of golf injuries are overuse injuries of the wrist flexor and extensor tendons. Such overuse injuries are treated with rest, splinting, and either oral anti-inflammatory medicines or steroid injections. Therapy exercises, altering swing mechanics and strengthening the forearm and hand muscles are also beneficial. Another commonly injured area in golfers is the shoulder. There are specific muscles in the shoulder that are most active in the swing. These are the subscapularis (one of the rotator cuff muscles), pectoralis (“pecs”), and latissimus (“lats”) muscles. Impingement syndrome (a bursitis and tendonitis in the shoulder), rotator cuff problems, and arthritis are the most common shoulder problems. These occur most frequently in the lead arm. A good warm-up routine and specific exercises that target the shoulder can help decrease the frequency of these injuries.
Warming up before golfing has been shown to decrease the occurrence of golf injuries. One survey showed that over 80% of golfers spent less than 10 minutes warming up before a round. Those who did warm up had less than half the incidence of injuries of those who did not warm up before playing. Lower handicap and professional golfers were more than twice as likely to warm up for more than 10 minutes as compared to other golfers. Many of these problems can be improved by using good swing mechanics. Instruction by a golf pro to improve technique is one of the best ways to decrease your chances of being injured. A regular exercise program that includes core strengthening, stretching and strengthening all the major muscle groups can also help decrease your injury rate and increase playing time.