There is a common misconception that golf is a sport with little risk of injury. While it’s true that golf has fewer and less serious injuries than many sports, injuries remain a consideration. In fact, 40% of amateur golfers suffer at least one injury each season (Brandon 2009). Two explanations for the high rate of golf injuries are that there is repeated bending and twisting during a golf round and that most golfers do no conditioning exercises in the off-season to offset the chronic stresses caused by these repetitive motions. Therefore, the combination of weak, inflexible muscles and the chronic movements of the sport can and do result in injury. In addition, a proper warm-up before playing golf is advised. Golfers who do no warm-up activities before a round of golf are at 45 times greater risk of an injury versus those who do warm-up (Fradkin 2007).
Five out of every 6 golf injuries are chronic overuse injuries (Fradkin 2007). The most commonly injured body areas are the:
- Lower back
This article will describe the most common injuries and offer brief recommendations for the treatment of these injuries:
Most injuries to the lower back will improve within a few days to a few weeks after the onset of pain. Most commonly, the cause of low back pain is either a muscle strain, inflammation of the muscle-tendon attachment, or an injury to a vertebral disc. Unfortunately, these injuries typically are difficult to differentiate.
The immediate treatment for a low back injury is ice. Ice bags should be applied to the low back 3-4 times a day for 15-20 minutes at a time for a total of 3-5 days. Golf should also be avoided during this time to further encourage healing. Gentle low back stretching may be initiated after this time provided there is no pain during the stretch. Once the pain has subsided, a slow return to golf may be made. If the low back pain continues for more than 3 weeks, a medical professional should be consulted.
Shoulder pain caused by golf is most common in the lead arm, i.e. the left arm in right-handers. Causes of pain include muscle strains, tendonitis, and bursitis.
Shoulder pain should initially be treated similarly to a low back injury, i.e. ice and rest. If the pain persists, a medical professional should be consulted. Since many shoulder injuries are chronic, once the pain has diminished, stretching and strengthening of the shoulder and rotator cuff should be initiated to prevent a recurrence. This will help to minimize excessive forces in the shoulder. One last method to minimize shoulder stresses is to shorten the swing so that the club head is at the 1 o’clock position at the end of the back swing. Frequently, steroid injections may be given to decrease pain, although the effect only lasts for 12 to 18 months. In chronic cases, arthroscopic surgery is often necessary, especially with significant rotator cuff tears.
Elbow injuries in golf are usually caused by lateral epicondylitis or medial epicondylitis, or inflammation of the humerus bone near the elbow joint. Lateral epicondylitis is most common and causes pain on the outside of the left elbow. Again, ice and rest are first-line treatments for these conditions. Medial epicondylitis is an overuse syndrome of the muscle-tendon unit on the inside of the elbow.
Changes in a technique that can help prevent elbow injuries include reducing grip tension, using flexible shafts, and using heads with large sweet spots. Rehabilitation programs include strengthening and stretching of the hand, forearm, and upper arm muscles. Cortisone injections are often effective at reducing pain although the effects are temporary.
Since the wrist is the anchor point between the golf club Hamburg and the body, it is subject to a large range of motion and, therefore, injuries. Wrist injuries are often acute in nature when the golf club impacts something other than the golf ball such as the ground, a rock, or a tree. This results in an unnatural deceleration of the golf club and can subsequently cause soft tissue injury. Muscle strains and fractures of the hamate bone are the most common.
For acute wrist injuries, immediate medical attention is recommended in order to rule out a bone fracture. For chronic wrist injuries, ice, rest, and then a gradual rehabilitation program are recommended.
While golf may not be considered an overly athletic sport, it is still important to provide the body with proper nutrition to help keep muscles and tendons strong and working at their peak. A diet that concentrates on fresh foods rich in whole-food vitamins is highly recommended. This includes plenty of fruits and vegetables which contain health-promoting plant nutrients called phytonutrients. Special attention should be paid to the consumption of lean proteins, nuts, beans, and legumes. Whole grains round out a healthy nutritional plan.
Some may depend upon vitamin supplements for an extra nutritional edge. However, the general consensus is nutrition is best derived from whole food sources. If seeking extra supplementation, look for natural and concentrated phytonutrient supplements such as fresh aloe vera juice. All in all, a healthy diet and a healthy body will do wonders to round out that perfect golf game.