Golf is a sport played by both young and old. Some people see it as a sport that’s easy on the body and can be played into their later years. There is some truth to that train of thought but, like any other sport, injuries can occur. These injuries range from mild to more serious. Research from the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that 15-40% of amateur golfers sustain an injury on an annual basis. The risk increases over time with 7 in 10 golfers suffering a golf-related injury in their lifetime. Along with this, it was shown that professionals have higher annual rates of injury ranging from 30-90% showing that more frequent play increases the risk of injury.
After volume of play, improper swing mechanics is another common risk factor for injury.
Injuries can occur at any stage during the golf swing, from backswing all the way through downswing, impact and follow through. Here are the most common injuries sustained during golf:
1. Back / Spine
Lower back injuries lead the way as most common, accounting for up to 34% of all golfing injuries. The rotational forces of the golf swing can place considerable pressure on both the spinal column and muscles. Combined with the fact that the movement is in a flexed position and very repetitive, it’s no wonder injuries occur. Neck and thoracic injuries are also both very common.
TIP: Take 5-10 minutes before each round to stretch out the muscles of the back. Warm up with some shorter shots and work your way through the clubs to the big stick. Building strength in the core and lumbar muscles will not only help prevent injury but should also improve your game.
Tendinopathy (degenerative changes in a tendon) of both the inner elbow (golfer’s elbow) and outer elbow (tennis elbow) are the most common golfing injuries in the elbow. Tendon injuries generally occur when they become overloaded or are under an increased/repetitive stress over a period of time e.g. like a golf swing. Risk of tendon injuries also increases with age due to natural degenerative changes that occur in the tendon.
TIP: Stretch and strengthen those forearm muscles to make the tendons more flexible and stronger, therefore, less susceptible to injury. There are some straps for tennis elbow which may help offload the tendon and reduce pain during your round.
Similar to the elbow, the high speed of the swing and the forces through impact can cause strain in the tendons of the wrist and hand.
TIP: Learning proper grip can greatly reduce the impact through the hands and wrists at impact.
Injuries to the rotator cuff in the shoulder are a common source of pain for golfers. The typical golf swing puts a lot of stress on shoulders by going through wide ranges of motion with speed and power. Injuries to the cuff can occur through overuse, hitting too much ground or trying to rely on the upper limbs to generate power instead of the hips and core.
TIP: Don’t wait for pain. Strengthen those shoulders to prevent injury. Rotator cuff injuries are extremely common and can be managed very well through strength and conditioning.
Knee injuries generally arise from trying to stabilise the knee, while the hips and trunk rotate rapidly. Over time, this can put stress on cartilage and meniscal structures in the knee. If a golfer already has arthritic changes it can pose more problems and they may need to manage their volume of play more diligently.
TIP: Working on single leg stability and control can help you avoid putting excessive stress though the knee joint. Ensure you have proper footwear that gives appropriate grip.
If you are experiencing any of the above because of golfing, don’t be afraid to book an appointment. We can assess your injury, get to the root of the problem and get you back swinging pain free in the future.
This post has been written by Physiotherapist Padraig Corbett B.Sc
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