Golf may seem like a low-impact sport, but injuries are common for many golfers. As in all sports, it is extremely important to understand and execute proper mechanics when swinging a golf club as well as carrying your golf bag. Golf may not be a high cardiac sport either, but it is essential to condition your body and increase your flexibility and range of motion to prevent injuries. It is also extremely important to warm up and loosen your muscles prior to hitting the links or going to the driving range. Starting a round of golf without warming up and stretching will greatly increase your chances of injury.

There can be acute injuries or overuse injuries in golf. Acute injuries usually occur after something traumatic during your swing such as hitting the ground hard or twisting your ankle too much. More commonly, overuse injuries seem to affect golfers.

Common upper extremity sites of injury include the shoulder, elbow and wrist.

Hand/Wrist

Wrist pain does not usually occur due to the repetitive nature of the golf swing but more often it is injured acutely during the swing. This can happen when you accidently hit the ground too hard during your swing or hit a tree root that you didn’t know was there. The impact of the club on your hand and wrist can cause anything from a sprain or even a fracture of a hand or wrist bone. Always make sure you move your ball away from any hazards and into a safe spot free of sprinklers, tree roots and rocks. Rest, ice and possibly splinting can help this type of injury. If the injury persists it is important to seek help from an orthopedic hand/upper extremity specialist.

Elbow

A very common golfing injury in the elbow is called medial epicondylitis, or ‘golfer’s elbow.’ This occurs due to the repetitive use of the flexor tendons in your forearm during each swing. This causes a tendinitis on the inside aspect of your elbow. This can be extremely painful and if it occurs, you should refrain from golfing until the pain is gone. Rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications should be utilized and if the injury does not improve, evaluation by an orthopedic specialist should be considered. They might supply you with a brace or send you for physical therapy. Occasionally, steroid injections are performed to help with the pain. Rarely surgical intervention is necessary. You can try to prevent this type of injury by slowing down your swing, loosening your grip on the club and loosening your elbows during your swing.

Shoulder

Shoulder pain is common in golfers due to the large range of motion required for a golf swing and the repetitive jolt on the shoulders when divots are made. Rotator cuff tendinitis or ‘impingement syndrome’ are common and occasionally a rotator cuff tear can occur. An acute rotator cuff tear is rare while golfing, but a degenerative tear can occur due to the repetitive nature of the golf swing. To prevent shoulder injuries during golf you can maintain your shoulder flexibility and range of motion as well as upper extremity strength. Slowing down your swing and possibly decreasing your back swing range of motion or flattening your back swing can also help decrease shoulder pain. If these suggestions do not help, rest is the next step as well as following up with an orthopedic specialist. Physical therapy and injections are possibilities to help with shoulder pain. Surgery is also an option if all conservative measures do not alleviate the pain.

Although it may seem like your upper body does most of the work in golf, your back and lower extremities take a lot of the stress also.

Back pain

Back pain is the most common golf injury and sidelines a lot of golfers, both professional and casual golfers. The posture of a golfer and high-velocity of his/her swing along with the twisting motion performed puts a lot of stress on the lower back. Back injuries can range from muscle strain to muscle spasms to things like disk herniation causing leg numbness/pain/tingling. Proper swing mechanics is extremely important to prevent back pain. It is vital to try and keep your back flexible and loose. Warming up prior to playing is very important.  Lessons on swing mechanics might be in your best interest if you experience back pain while golfing. Also make sure you use your legs when you lift your golf bag and bend at the knees (not back) when you pick up your ball. As with most injuries, rest and anti-inflammatory medications can help with your back pain. If rest and medications do not work, you should come see one of our spine specialists to take a closer look at you. They may prescribe you stronger anti-inflammatory medications, steroids or physical therapy.

Knee pain

Although the knees do not take much stress during the golf swing, any underlying disease can be aggravated during a round of golf. Occasionally an acute injury to the knee can occur from your spike getting stuck in the ground and quick rotation of your swing. This motion can cause a meniscal tear. Knee arthritis can flare during golf, especially if you walk the course. In order to prevent knee pain, you can try switching to golf shoes without spikes to decrease the torque on your knees during your swing. You should also consider using a golf cart if you have underlying knee pain. Again, as previously stated slowing down your swing can decrease the stress on your knees, as well as most joints. If you have underlying knee pain, pre-treating with anti-inflammatories prior to playing golf can help reduce the pain. If this is an acute knee injury that does not improve with rest, ice and medication, seeking advice from an orthopedic specialist would be the next step. They may offer stronger anti-inflammatory medication, bracing and/or steroid injections.

Golf is a very popular sport loved by many. Although golf is a non-contact sport, as you can see from above, it can still result in many different injuries. As stated many times, it is extremely important to execute proper swing mechanics and warm up prior to golfing. Even if you are going to the driving range, make sure you stretch and hit a few shots with your wedges prior to fully swinging or using your driver.

If you experience any of the above injuries, or any other injury while golfing, call our office at 412-782-3990 and schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. We would be happy to help you get back to the game you love.

By Bethany Wink PA-C