As the weather warms up, many recreational golfers are taking out their clubs for the first time in months. Most medical professionals consider golf as a “low impact” sport. However, injuries are very common due to the high rotational velocity that occurs at end ranges of motion. Lower back pain is the most prevalent complaint observed in amateur golf players. Other areas of the body where pain or injury regularly occur in golf players include the shoulder (or a shoulder impingement, when tendons of the rotator cuff muscles become compressed); the elbow (or elbow epicondylitis, inflammation of the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bone on the inside of the elbow); the hip (or a hip impingement, when stiffness and pain occur from friction in the joint); and the knee (arthritis, or damage to the articular cartilage, which lines the ends bones, and guides movement and cushioning at the joint). Poor body and swing mechanics are the two most common reasons for recreational golfers to sustain an injury.
There are a number of tips you can follow to keep your body healthy and to prevent common golf-related injuries to keep you on the green:
- Do an active warm up: pick 2-3 quick exercises to perform on the course before you play. These will help maintain range of motion of the spine, hips and shoulders, as well as warm up your core and ensure proper posture and mechanics.
- Thoracic (mid back) spine rotation is necessary to avoid the lumbar (low back) spine from overly rotating. Use specific exercises to increase thoracic rotation while keeping your lumbar spine stable.
- Turn your feet slightly out to allow more rotation in your hips: this will decrease the compressive and shear forces that can potentially occur in the lumbar (low back) spine.
- Learn to use the larger core muscles in your legs and trunk to transfer weight more consistently.
- Slightly decrease your backswing to decrease the amount of rotation in your trail shoulder.
- Ensure proper weight shift: poor weight shifting or limited use of the legs, hips and trunk may put more stress on the elbow. Poor kinetic linking from the lower body to the upper body can result in more strain on the elbow, as well as power leaks.
- Address any weaknesses in upper body strength and flexibility: do exercises to build up your upper body to decrease stress and strain on the elbow and arm muscles. Strengthening exercises can be done in the off-season, as well, so a golfer is in good shape when getting back to the game.
- Swing within the limitations of your body; avoid forcing hip rotation or any other painful positions in your low back or hips.
- Similar to the low back, you can outwardly rotate your feet to allow more room for rotation in your hips.
- Do exercises to improve your balance, as well as strength and flexibility of the hip, knees and trunk muscles. This will optimize performance of the hips during the golf swing. Core strength provides a strong foundation that allows your hips to work more efficiently.
- Ensure proper golf posture to avoid unnecessary stresses through the knees and hips.
- Turn your feet out slightly when swinging to reduce the amount of rotation in your knee, especially on your lead leg.
- Make sure to arrive to your tee time 30-60 minutes before to allow sufficient time for an active warm up.
- Use a cart if walking 18 holes is too much stress on your body.
- Use proper squatting form when retrieving your ball out of the hole.
- Get a proper fitting shoe that supports your joints.
This article is brought to you by the Rehabilitation Department at Hospital for Specialist Surgery (HSS).
This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, terminating or changing any ongoing treatment.
For questions, or to arrange for a visit or consult with an expert in the Rehabilitation Department at HSS, please contact 212-606-1555.
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