Whether you’re a gym rat who likes a fun round of golf on the side, like Dwayne Johnson, or have more serious ambitions like winning the PGA Championship, you’ll know that golf is considerably more physically demanding than it appears. Golfing injuries are common on the course because the act of swinging a club involves several bodily processes. So, to learn the biomechanics of golf and obtain some great advice for injury prevention and recovery, M&F spoke with Dr. Andrew Creighton, an Assistant Attending Physiatrist at the Hospital for Special Surgery and an Assistant Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine at Weill Cornel Medical College.
What are a few of the most frequent golf-related injuries?
While golf may appear to be a relatively easy sport, poor technique and a lack of understanding of the game’s mental and physical demands will drive you off the course at any age. says Dr. Creighton. The pars bone, which is located between the joints of the spine, is prone to damage in younger athletes.
“As the golfer grows older, a common injury is to the discs of the lumbar spine. Often times, the golfer will hurt with bending, lifting or twisting especially if weight is added,” adds Dr. Creighton. “As the golfer continues to age, they can develop arthritis of the facet joints of the lumbar spine which again typically hurt with twisting and with the extension of the painful area. Most of the time, injury to the low back occurs as a result of mobility issues in the thoracic spine (at the back of the chest), mid back or mobility issues in the hip. Issues with mobility in the thoracic spine and hip result in more torque and shear force taking place in the lumbar spine, causing injury to the bones, discs and joints.”
Upper-extremity injuries, particularly in the elbow and wrist, are common, according to Dr. Creighton, a former collegiate golfer and current competitive amateur golfer. “The most common injuries that occur at the elbow are medial and lateral elbow tendinopathies, also known as medial and lateral epicondylitis,” he notes. “The tendon undergoes change and sometimes has partial tearing as a result of overuse and poor technique. The golfer typically hurts at the prominent bone on the inside or the outside of the elbow and just down the arm from those areas. When looking at the wrist, injuries frequently occur on the inside or outside of the wrist, ulnar and radial side respectively.”
What are the most common reasons for golf-related injuries?
“Injuries to the wrist most commonly occur from hitting an object with the club, such as a tree root or tall grass, which causes a sudden decrease in movement of the accelerating hands and wrists,” explains Dr. Creighton. “In addition to inadvertently hitting something with the club, injuries can also occur from overuse and poor technique similar to how the elbow can be injured. Common causes of golf injuries include overuse or poor swinging mechanics and hitting an object while swinging. All these issues can take place with golfers of any age. As with any activity, there is likely a point when the golfer is playing too much. However, that point of excessive golf is likely different for each individual. The golfer has likely reached that point once the pain and injury occur. So, it is recommended that the golfer should address this pain and injury and consider taking some time off to allow for recovery. It is important to investigate if there is anything modifiable with their golf swing or golf routine before playing again.”
Should golfers be concerned about the weather outside?
“The cold can slow down your nervous system’s ability to generate a muscle contraction,” explains Dr. Creighton. “Overall, flexibility is important in the golf swing and when you are cold, flexibility can be impaired. Impaired flexibility can lead to stress of the joints and soft tissue and potential injury. Therefore, it is recommended to wear additional clothing to stay warm when playing golf and to carry out a dynamic warm-up to make sure the tissues are mobilized before playing. However, excessive layers can also be restrictive on the golf swing so there is a balance to be struck. Make sure to practice hitting balls on the range after a dynamic exercise warm-up to get this layering balance correct for you.”
Is it necessary to warm up before playing golf?
Warmups have been shown to help with injury prevention and even golfing development in studies, yet statistics show that few golfers do so before a round. “I strongly recommend that every golfer commits to having a dynamic warm-up focused on mobilization of the body before playing,” ” Said dr. Creighton. Warming up before a round of golf may seem unusual to some, but when you realize that the body needs to be mobile in order to stretch and hyperextend, a pre-match warm-up makes perfect sense.
“Having a dynamic warmup is key before you play golf,” adds Creighton, who says that warm-ups for golf are important for muscle activation, and can reduce lower back and upper extremity pain, while also helping to increase swinging power. Include functional exercises like the side plank, hip rotations, and elbow lifts in your routine. Complete the up, down, left, and right movements to prepare the wrists. Dynamic warm-ups, especially those that include resistance, appear to be superior to static stretching.
What other steps can be taken to keep golf injuries to a minimum or avoid them altogether?
Physical limits can often contribute to golf swing flaws, according to Dr. Creighton, therefore players should take advantage of screening measures that look at strength and flexibility. In order to fine-tune the golf swing and address any flaws, he also suggests that golfers seek out coaching from a skilled PGA professional. “Make sure your clubs are fitted and gripped appropriately,” adds Creighton. “In addition, long-term preseason physical conditioning may help golfers avoid fatigue-related injury.”
What are the treatment options for golfing injuries?
“Treatment of the golfer, for any injury, really involves a collaborative approach,” says Dr. Creighton. “First, see a physician who can give a clear diagnosis on what the injury is. A knowledgeable physical therapist can take the athlete through an exercise-based approach to rehabilitation and rebuilding the athlete. Finally, the golfer can also benefit from having a swing coach who is aware of the injury and can modify the swing as necessary to help avoid exacerbating the healing injury, thus helping to avoid injury recurrence.”
Should golfers be concerned about their diet?
According to Dr. Creighton, some evidence suggests that taking a caffeine supplement near the end of a round of golf can help improve energy levels by reducing weariness. “For golfers, major emphasis needs to be placed on appropriately hydrating during the round, as even mild dehydration can affect performance,” he adds. “Golf is viewed by many as a moderately intense activity and even at a moderately intense exercise level, at least half of our total energy comes from carbohydrates, and this indicates that golfers need to consume carbohydrates to maintain blood glucose levels when playing golf. Additionally, maintaining normal glucose levels allows the golfer to maintain concentration.”
Warm up, fine-tune your technique, drink, and recognize when it’s time to rest and rebuild. That’s how you keep on track throughout the season.
Original article posted on M&F.