Calling all Golfers - Avoid Common Golf Injuries and Golf Related Pain

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

As we head towards Spring, and hopefully the light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, we’re all hoping, even assuming that Golf will soon be back on the allowed list. After all, it’s outside and, other than the 19th hole, it’s socially distant. A no-brainer, surely?

After a year of lay-offs and on and offs, it’s worth making sure you’re fit to play a round and avoid those common golfing injuries. There ARE steps you can take to help prevent them, keeping you on course and on THE course.

Sure, golf’s not as blood and thunder or fast and furious as lacrosse, rugby or football. Nonetheless, golf is still a sport and as such, requires specific and strenuous, often repetitive movements that could cause injury. There are several regular injuries and conditions which doctors and physiotherapists regularly see in golfers at all levels.

Back Injuries and Back Pain

During every game of golf you play and every session at the driving range, you will use your back repeatedly. There’s rotation throughout the golf swing, the stance when putting, constantly bending over to pick up your ball and teeing up and of course lugging the golf bag round 18 holes. It will come as no surprise to discover that back pain is the most common golfing injury or complaint. It can also be one of the most debilitating golfing injuries - and one which can negatively impact on every aspect of life and work.

Typically, back pain connected to playing golf develops in the lower back, usually on the right-hand side (unless the golfer is left-handed). Simple, easily rectified faults with the swing or with putting, can pull and strain the back and often lead to chronic back pain.

Tendonitis of the Elbow

An ‘itis’ is irritation, swelling and inflammation. As the name suggests, tendonitis is inflammation of the of tendons. Tendonitis in the elbow is a frequent complaint for golfers. Often known as Tennis elbow, this affects the outer tendon. In golf, this can be caused by over-extension in the swing and usually causes painful forearms or outer elbows.

The lesser-known but equally painful golfer’s elbow affects the inner tendons. This is a golfing injury that can happen when accidentally striking the ground, or perhaps when straining forearm muscles in the swing. Golfer's elbow pain tends to occur to the inside of the elbow and forearm.

Knee Pain and Injuries

Painful knees are common in golfers, and especially as they get older. In fact, they’re common in anyone, golfer or not, as we get older. The knee joints are susceptible to injury from impact, strains and repetitive movements, and while flexing through the swing.

Common golfers knee injuries include those to the cruciate ligament (more in common with the footballers than you thought) and torn meniscus, both of which can be extremely painful and debilitating, and require surgery.

Shoulder Pain and Injuries

The shoulders are vulnerable to injuries from overuse, for instance rotator cuff injuries (there’s one we have in common with the rugby players); shoulder impingement (when a tendon rubs or catches – impinges - on nearby tissue or bone); arthritis; strain and sprain injuries, and even dislocated shoulders.

Wrist Injuries

The repetitive nature of golf, and the movement of the swing can strain the extensor and flexor wrist tendons especially in the lead arm.

De Quervain's Tenosynovitis presents with pain and inflammation to the tendons over the thumb side of the wrist is one of the commonest golfer’s wrist injuries. It can be caused by gripping the club and rotating the wrist, usually during the swing.

Prevent Golfing Injuries

So many golfing injuries could be prevented. Follow our advice and do your best to stay in shape and stay fit to play golf. We’ve missed enough time on the course over the past year.

  • · Warm up: Always factor in a warm up before teeing off or even before practising. Walking is good, but make sure you stretch, too - hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, spine and pelvis. Swing a club, gradually increasing the range of movement. Warmed up muscles are less likely to sustain injury.

  • · Get the swing mechanics right: The whole body is involved in the golf swing. The swing movement is then repeated over and over which can put significant pressure on all the same muscles, tendons and joints. A poor swing doesn’t just affect your drive and your game – it really can cause or worsen injuries. Practice, practice, practice and book in for a golf movement screen.

  • · Get fit for Golf: As with any sport or physical activity, it’s vital to gradually work up the activity level. Also, consider other activities that will improve your fitness and thus your golf game. Weight work could really help, along with aerobic exercise. Increasing flexibility is also a good idea.

  • · Stretch and strengthen: Strong muscles improve virtually everything and are far less susceptible to injuries, golfing or otherwise. Regular stretching exercises can improve flexibility and range of motion which could really help your game.

  • · Work on good posture: Don’t hunch! Hunching forwards can adversely affect your balance in the swing, leading to neck and back pain. Poor posture can contribute to arthritis. To swing, feet should be a shoulder’s width apart, facing just slightly out and knees should be bent slightly. Don’t bend the spine, simply tilt the torso forward. The movement should come from the hips.

  • · Take care lifting and carrying golf clubs: Use correct lifting techniques when carrying agolf bag. Keep your back straight. If you already suffer with your back or shoulders, treat yourself to a cart – or a caddy.

  • · All the gear, good idea: the right shoes reduce strain on knees and ankles and graphite clubs are lightweight to reduce strain.

Getting You Back on Course

Does your lower back stiffen up during or after a round of golf? Are you getting elbow or shoulder discomfort?

Wes is a Titleist Performance Institute (@mytpi) medical professional and registered osteopath. Oak Health have the knowledge and experience to help you become pain free and start enjoying playing golf again. The Oak Health specialist Golf Clinic provides Osteopathy for golf injuries and pain, Titleist Performance Institute Golf Movement Screens, Off-Season Golf Training Packages and golf-specific strength training.

Our Cheadle Hulme-based Golf Clinic can help you move better, hit the ball further and generally improve your golf game. Whether you require Osteopathic treatment for existing injuries and pain, or you’d like to prevent them by trying a sport-specific Golf Movement screen to perfect your technique, we can help. Some injuries are just going to happen anyway and that’s where I come in. Let’s get you back on the course!

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