Don’t be fooled by the seemingly tame appearance of a game of golf; the physical activity involved on the golfers’ end can leave risk for injury if the correct precautions aren’t taken.
In 2009, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported that there were more than 55,000 visits to hospital emergency rooms for golf-related injuries. And according to Dr. Adam Downs, D.C., owner of Mountain Vista Health Center, roughly 60 percent of avid golfers will sustain some sort of injury within the next year with the percentage increasing by about 20 percent the older people get.
So why are golfers so susceptible to injury? Two reasons: 1) an improper golf swing, and 2) lack of warm-up and strength training.
Downs, Eric D. Marcotte, owner and chiropractor at Endurance Chiropractic, LLC, and Doug Hammond, director of instruction at Troon North Golf Club, all agree that a proper golf swing is important to avoid an injury on the course. Downs says most amateur golfers have injuries related to poor technique — roughly 70 percent of all injuries.
“Proper golf posture at setup already creates a tremendous amount of load on the lumbar spine,” Hammond says. “If a person is in poor golf posture and increases that load, there becomes a serious risk for an injury to the back.”
According to Downs and Marcotte, the top four injuries include the aforementioned back pain as well as golfer’s elbow (medial or lateral elbow), shoulder injuries and hip injuries. Downs adds that these are common throughout all ages of golfers, with back pain and strain the most common.
Wrist, hand and shoulder injuries can be caused by an off-set grip or swinging the club too upright in the backswing.
“A person who swings the club too upright in the backswing usually will create a steep angle of attack into the golf ball on the downswing, causing the club to crash into the ground,” Hammond says. “This crash can cause a serious wrist injury — common in ladies — or elbow tendinitis over time.”
To improve one’s swing and address swing faults, golfers should take lessons, practice, train, condition and warm-up properly before a game — a step Downs says most golfers don’t take. Take care of your joints, shoulders, knees, hips, elbows and wrists through drills, practice techniques and maintaining range of motion; keep blood flowing through these areas.
Marcotte adds that golfers should work on different areas when training for different shots and swings. For instance, focus on balance for bunker shots and uneven lies; flexibility for increased torque and power generation through the trunk and hips; hand-eye coordination for ball striking and ball contact; strengthening for improved lumbar and LE stabilization; and focus on cardiovascular exercise for stamina and generalized conditioning.
While some may believe there’s no perfect golf swing, one can sure try through training, consistency and simply taking care of one’s self — on and off the course.
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Injuries Par For The Course
Golf-related injuries are more common than one may think. The repetitive motions over time can place significant stress on muscles, tendons and joints. Here are some prevention tips, provided by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS):
Prevent Golfer’s Elbow
Strengthen your forearm muscles:
- Squeeze a tennis ball for five minutes at a time.
- Wrist curls using a lightweight dumbbell: Perform 10 repetitions with each arm by curling the weight from your fingertips to your palm, followed by curling up your wrist to lift the weight an inch or two higher.
- Reverse wrist curls using a lightweight dumbbell: Place your hands in front of you, palm side down. Using your wrist, lift the weight up and down. Hold the arm that you are exercising above your elbow with your other hand in order to limit the motion to your forearm. Perform 10 repetitions with one arm and then repeat with the other arm.
Prevent Lower Back Pain
Strengthen lower back muscles:
- Rowing: Perform three sets of 10 repetitions at least three times a week.
- Pull Downs: Perform three sets of 10 repetitions at least three times a week.
- Yoga and Pilates: These programs focus on trunk and abdomen strength and flexibility.
Prevent Foot Injuries
- Insert orthotics in your golf shoes to help stabilize the feet and establish a healthier contact with the ground during the swing.
For more information about correcting improper golf swings, visit:
Endurance Chiropractic, LLC
9376 E. Bahia, Scottsdale
Troon North Golf Club
10320 E. Dynamite Blvd., Scottsdale
Mountain Vista Health Center
1375 N. Scottsdale Rd., #180, Scottsdale