Spring is upon us, and that means golf season is getting under way. Do you love the game? Many golfers will say they have a love-hate relationship with the game. Golf is a demanding sport. It requires a lot of time and effort, and the definition of true grit for some of us to master the skills and the mental attitude needed to be good at this challenging game. Oh, but when it’s good, it is so good.
Players know injuries are part of this game. The forceful nature of the swing and the stress of the mechanics on your body often leads to injuries. The fact is more than 60 percent of golfers are injured or experience pain each year, and nearly 60,000 people head to emergency rooms annually because of golf-related injuries.
There are five injuries that are particularly prevalent among golfers, and there’s a pretty good chance that you might be suffering from one of them before the season is over. What can help you or your favorite golfer is to understand the possible problems and some of the ways you can deal with them.
(1) Back pain is a top risk, and it makes sense. When you think about how you rotate in the process of swinging, you understand just how much pressure is placed on your spine and the muscles associated with it. Now, think about how much time you spend bending over the ball during the course of practicing for or playing the game, and how many times you are repeating the motions involved in bending over and hitting the ball. It’s not tough to connect the dots and realize that the game can lead to lower-back strain or more serious back injuries.
Hopefully, you are doing the proper warm-ups before practicing or playing a round, but you also need to have a proper exercise program to strengthen and stretch your back so you have the best chance of avoiding an injury.
If an injury does occur, you need to rest and see a doctor. If initial approaches don’t fix the problem, you will likely be referred to a physical therapist who has the proper specialized training in sports injuries.
I understand how important that training is because I have been providing physical therapy to a variety of sports teams and athletes for years, and it is very important to get the right hands on treatment, coupled with the exercises and stretches that will get you pain free and back out on the links.
(2) Rotator-cuff injuries are no fun, either. You have four muscles located in your shoulders that are stabilizing muscles. When the muscles swell and shorten the proper distance between your arm and shoulder bones or when a tear occurs in one of your muscles or tendons, you are going to have a pretty uncomfortable injury.
Seeing your doctor is critical to getting the right diagnosis and treatment plan. This is another case where you may be referred to a physical therapist to help you fully recover. You can expect your physical therapist will use their specialized knowledge in sports injuries to devise a recovery plan that will include strengthening and stretching the muscles in your shoulders, as well as in your back and abs.
(3) Golfer’s elbow is much like tennis elbow, and this is no picnic to deal with. This is a very common injury that involves an inflammation of the tendons that attach your forearm muscles to the inside of your elbow. The symptoms typically include pain and swelling on the inside of the elbow, as well as weakness in a hand and forearm.
There are a few factors which can lead to the injury. Excessive strokes, repetitive gripping, pulling or pushing, overusing your rear hand in your swing, or trying to power the club through with your hand, instead of using it properly to guide your club through the swing, are big offenders. Rest and avoid painful motions, which means you may also have to switch hands to do many of your typical tasks. Ice the elbow with an ice pack three to four times a day.
If your pain continues, get an appointment with your doctor. Your medical professional may prescribe physical therapy to decrease the pain and inflammation. A physical therapist will work to restore your flexibility and build strength through a combination of treatments that may include specific soft-tissue techniques to promote healing. Your physical therapist will also create a program for you that combines stretching and strengthening exercises.
(4) Players know that their knees are also a big part of stabilizing your hips when you’re swinging, and that means stress and strain. For those of us who aren’t kids anymore, we know all too well that the older we get, the more we notice the impact on our knees.
The game can lead to a variety of knee injuries, and they are not something you want to take lightly. Just think about this: The force that you place on your knees can lead to torn ligaments. If you have arthritis, you know your cartilage is wearing down and there’s so many different ways your knees can be injured that you don’t want to take any chances.
If you’re feeling pain in a knee when you’re out on the course, don’t wait. Get to a doctor before you do some serious damage, and that can mean more than staying off the course. It can also severely limit your mobility and the ability to do simple tasks that are part of your daily routine.
You can expect your doctor is going to do a thorough exam that may require some tests. As with the other injuries we’ve been discussing, you may be referred to a physical therapist as part of your recovery plan and to get your strength back. Your physical therapist will likely combine hands-on therapy with strengthening exercises that may also include weights to build back your muscles, take the stress off your injured knee and help you get rid of that pain. And one other tip: make sure you are wearing the right shoes, and if they are wearing down, you need to get a new pair. Do it for your knees.
(5) Anyone who plays the game knows your wrists are working hard every time you swing, and the repetitive motion can really put your wrists at risk for a painful injury. No surprise then that tendinitis of the wrists is one of the most common injuries golfers suffer.
This is an injury that involves swelling of the tendons that are responsible for your wrists’ movements. It can get so bad that you won’t even be able to hold a club, let alone swing it. You know the drill. You’re going to need to give your wrists a rest and get to the doctor to understand the full nature of your injury.
Recovering from wrist tendonitis often involves physical therapy. Your physical therapy will likely use a variety of techniques that may include specialized soft-tissue therapy in addition to hands-on techniques involving joint movements and stretches to get you back to normal. Your physical therapist is also a good person to talk to about an ongoing conditioning and strengthening plan to help prevent wrist tendonitis in the future.
My best advice to you is to remember that you shouldn’t just plan your schedule around arriving at tee time. Always plan on getting their early and doing some basic warm-ups to prepare your body for playing.
One last thought: No one knows who said this, but it’s a great quote, and anyone who has played will appreciate it. “Golf can best be defined as an endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional miracle.” That about says it all.