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Top Tips for Pain-Free Golf

Do you play golf – or know someone who does?

Did you know that golf is a more dangerous sport than rugby?!

This year’s BackCare Awareness Week focusses on golf. 

Golf is a wonderful sport, and even though it is a low-impact sport, it is not without injury.

Professionals generally suffer as result of overuse and over-practice, whilst among amateurs most problems go back to poor technique, especially swing mechanics or technical error near impact.

A number of factors may contribute to golf injuries:

  • Overuse and over-practice
  • Poor swing mechanics
  • Over-swinging
  • Not warming up the muscles properly
  • Rotational stresses placed on the spine
  • Incorrect grip and setup
  • Traumatic force to the body resulting from a poorly executed swing

5 Common Golf Injuries:

When we see golfers at our clinic, the most common injuries that we treat are:

1. Back Pain

During a game golf, you will use your back many times in many different ways. All of them will be repetitive – from rotational stresses when swinging a golf club, a bent-over stance for hours, to reaching down to pick up your golf ball and carrying your golf clubs.

2. Tendinitis in the Elbows

Tendinitis is irritation and inflammation on the tendon tissue in the arm, (tendons connect the muscle to the bones).  It is common in golfers, especially in their dominant arm.  Two types of tendinitis injury exist:

  • Outer tendon injury is thought to be caused by over-extending your swing
  • Inner tendon injury can be caused by striking the ground during your shot or overusing your forearm muscles to grip, flex and rotate your wrist and arm when you swing

3. Shoulder

A lot of strain is put on the muscles, tendons and joints in your shoulders, usually resulting in an overstrain injury.  Most commonly the rotator cuff tendons are injured. This may be from a poorly executed swing, hitting a root or rock, taking a deep divot and/or from overuse.

4. Wrist

Due to the repetitive motions, pain and tenderness on the top of the wrist, experienced at the top of the backswing and at impact are common.  The injury is usually a tendonitis, especially in your lead arm.  You may also have DeQuervain’s tendonitis; inflammation of the tendons in the wrist closet to your thumb. This is caused by gripping your club and turning your wrist whilst swinging.

5. Knee

Knee pain can occur from the strain placed on a weak knee to stabilise the rotation of the hip axis at the beginning of the swing.  If you are already suffering from arthritis, you may experience more problems.  Reduced mobility in the hips will impact on this hugely.

10 Top Tips to Prevent Golf Injuries

As a golfer, what can you do to minimise your risk of injury?

1. Adjust / Practice Your Swing

The entire body is used to execute a golf swing in a complex and coordinated movement.  When this movement is repeated frequently, significant stress is placed on the same muscles, tendons and joints – which over time can result in injury.

2. Posture

This is important whilst swinging your clubs and putting the ball. Often golfers hunch over into a forward posture. This can cause your body to overcompensate to keep you balanced as you swing, resulting in neck and back pain. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and rotated slightly outward, and your knees slightly bent. You should keep your spine relatively straight and your trunk tilted forward.  Most of the movement should come from your hips/pelvis. 

3. Warm Up

Go for a brisk walk and stretch your whole body. Incorporate gentle twisting movements, gradually increasing your range of motion.

4. Start Slowly

You might be keen to get going, but doing too much too soon is likely to result in injury.

5. Strengthen Muscles

Stronger muscles can increase your club speed and are less prone to injury.  For best results, do strength training exercises all year.

6. Focus on Flexibility

Regular stretching can improve your range of motion and lead to a more fluid golf swing.  You need to look at your whole body, however spine twists plus hip and shoulder movements are a good place to start.

7. Build up Your Endurance

Most professional sports players probably spend as much time away from their sport as they do practising it.  This includes walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling… the list goes on.

8. Carrying Clubs

Think carefully how you pick up and carry your clubs  – from how you get them out of your car, to carrying them around the course.  Maybe only take half a set or look at getting some lighter ones.

9. Only hit the Ball

Elbow and wrist injuries are often the result of hitting the ground or the rough.

10. Choose Proper Clothing and Footwear

Dress for comfort and protection from the elements.  Look closely at your cleats – will they hold your feet planted as you swing, which may strain your knees of ankles?

How can we help?

As you can see, playing golf involves the whole of the body.  If there is a part pf your body that is tight, stiff, painful or lacking range of movement, your golfing game will be affected.

We can assess your whole body and use hands-on treatment to loosen tight muscles and increase range of movement of your joints.  We can then go through some exercises and stretches with you, designed help continue the work of the treatment.

This summary was produced by Karen Robinson, a registered Osteopath and founder of the Shefford Osteopathic Clinic.