Golf looks like an easy game to play, hitting a stationary object with a club into a relatively wide open space. Well, think again! To become a good golfer, it is recommended that you start young and practice, practice, and practice. Golf historically is perceived as being a low-risk sport when it comes to injuries. However, many young golfers, especially those who lack proper technique, suffer from acute or overuse injuries
Most Common Type of Golf Injuries
Acute injuries are usually the result of a single, traumatic episode, such as hitting the ground of a submerged tree root in a sand trap. Overuse injuries are more subtle and usually occur over time. These injuries will more often stem from the stress that the golfer puts on the back and shoulders when swinging.
The three most commonly injured areas of the body are the back, shoulder, and elbow. They should be treated with rest, a good stretching/warm-up program, and good, sound advice from a golf professional and/or sports medicine specialist.
You’re keen to improve your swing, but hours spent hunched over your club, along with the rotational stresses you put onto your back as you swing, can add up to serious back pain. Lower back pain is the most common, but don’t discount the discomfort of that shooting, stabbing pain between your shoulder blades, either.
To prevent back issues, practice correct form and regularly exercise the muscles of your back (focusing specifically on trapezoid and pectoral muscles). Flexibility exercises such as yoga can also help to prevent back injuries.
Rotator Cuff / Shoulder
Avid golfers can end up messing up their rotator cuffs, which are the four stabilizing muscles located in each of your shoulders. Rotator cuff impingements are when the muscles swell and pinch the space between the arm and shoulder bones. Another type of injury occurs when one of the tendons or muscles tear. Both common types of rotator cuff injuries cause pain and inhibit your game.
To prevent rotator cuff injury, practice correct form as well as engage in regular strength training and stretching the muscles of the shoulders, backs, and abs.
Elbow and Wrist Tendinitis
Tendinitis in the elbow in sports terms is more commonly referred to as “Golf Elbow” and means irritation and inflammation of the inner tendon which can be very painful.
To prevent golf elbow, make sure you are using proper swing techniques when you practice. Tendinitis shows up after overuse of the tendons involved, so be sure to rotate your practice regimen to allow your elbows and arms to get adequate rest.
Like the tendons in the elbows, wrist tendons can become overly fatigued and inflamed, which can affect your ability to hold your club correctly (or at all, in serious cases).
To prevent wrist tendinitis, use the off-season to condition and strengthen your wrists and forearms by doing simple wrist exercises.
Key Risk Factors
Poor flexibility is a key risk factor for a golf injury. One survey showed that more than 80 percent 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.
The golf swing is broken down into four phases: backswing, downswing, acceleration/ball strike, and follow through. Any limitations in range of motion (ROM) will hamper the golfer’s ability to achieve the proper swing plane, thus increasing the stress on the involved joints and muscles.
The second main reason for golf injuries is the repetitive nature of this sport. The golf swing involves repetitive, high-velocity movement of the neck, shoulders, spine, elbow, wrist, hips, knees, and ankles. The percentage of injuries directly correlates with the number of rounds or the number of range/practice balls struck per week.
Golf Injuries in Youth
Approximately 44 percent of all reported golf injuries in youth are from overuse. The main causes of these injuries include:
- Lack of flexibility
- Poor conditioning
- Excessive play or practice
- Poor swing mechanics
- Ground impact forces
- Intermittent play
To avoid golf injuries at any age level, it is important for the golfer to develop a solid swing technique. The golfer who plays with a poor swing technique will have an increased risk of injury due to the excessive stress placed on their back, shoulders, and elbows. All golfers, no matter the age level, should have a specific routine of stretching/flexibility exercises they perform prior to starting each round. They should also always hit some golf balls before a game, starting with the wedge and gradually working their way up to the driver. You should never just grab the driver and go!
Seek the advice of a sports medicine specialist in your area if any injury occurs to get an accurate diagnosis and prevent recurrent problems.