The weather’s clearing up and that means one thing: golf.
But, as any orthopedic surgeon or physical therapist will tell you, rushing out to the course and torquing your body after being dormant during the winter is a recipe for injuries to muscles and connective tissue.
So, before you head out to the front nine, make sure you ease your body back into a fitness routine. That being said, even for professionals it’s difficult to avoid injuries. Repetitive use and one-time tweaks are common at all levels.
After all, says Golf Channel’s Karen Palacios-Jansen in very accurate fashion, the golf swing is a violent movement.
“The explosive nature of the swing can put a tremendous amount of stress on the body, and a majority of professional golfers have experienced some sort of nagging injury at one time or another in their careers,” Palacios-Jansen said.
According to famed sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews, 62% of amateur golfers will sustain a significant golf injury. Here are a few common injuries and tips on how to prevent them.
This condition likes to flare up for golfers, tennis players and a variety of other athletes who use their thumb and first two fingers for repetitive throwing and swinging.
Basically, your golf swing implements tendons in your elbow that help with grip and arm rotation.
While nearly anyone can get elbow tendinitis – also known as tennis elbow – WebMD says “it’s most common at about age 40.”
You know you’re dealing with tendinitis if you feel pain in your elbow when you open a door, shake hands or straighten your wrist, WebMD goes on to say.
Thankfully, elbow tendinitis isn’t a complex injury for most people. The Golf Channel’s Palacios-Jansen says that most cases of tennis elbow can be cured with rest.
You may also want to consult a swing coach, as poor swing mechanics can cause or aggravate the injury.
Dr. Andrews joined several other sports-injury specialists in a 2013 Golf Digest article to talk about common golf injuries.
Andrews pointed out that many golfers will experience wrist tendinitis because of the stress repeated swings put on the lead hand.
While we’re taught to lead the club with our lead hand, most of us, Andrews said, don’t have the strength to do this. As a result, we place a tremendous amount of stress on the back of our wrist.
Renowned golf guru Hank Johnson said one way to avoid this injury is to alter the position of your left hand (right hand for lefties).
Normally, amateurs position their thumb down the shaft, but, Johnson said, rotating your left hand 30 degrees away from the target will relieve stress on your wrist.
Torn Knee Cartilage
Dr. Andrews also pointed out that your left knee undergoes a lot of stress during your swing because it’s being torqued and compressed when you follow through.
Most of us focus on keeping our left knee locked, which means we tend to keep it stiff and turned inward just a hair.
“Many golfers square the left foot and lock the knee in an internally rotated position, which leads to an increased shearing force on the knee joint,” Andrews said.
The shearing force wreaks havoc on your knee’s cartilage, possibly leading to cartilage degeneration over time.
You can avoid this injury, Johnson said, by turning your left foot 20 to 30 degrees toward your target.
“The line of the left thigh should be vertical or leaning away from the target on the downswing, not leaning toward the target,” Johnson said.
Rotator Cuff Strains and Tears
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), nearly 2 million people went to their doctor because of rotator cuff pain.
The rotator cuff is actually four small tendons attaching the ends of your shoulder muscle to your shoulder. Repeated golf swings and poor form can put a lot of wear on tear on these tiny workhorses, as can chunked shots and, as the Golf Channel pointed out, hitting rocks or a root (whether by accident or on purpose).
“Rotator cuff injuries are usually treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. In some instances, surgical repair becomes necessary,” Golf Channel’s Palacios-Jansen wrote.
Fixing this problem could be a matter of modifying your swing, she said, and by adding strength training to your workout regime.
The AAOS says the problem can also be fixed with rest, but there are cases in which you’ll need steroid injections if rest, a modified wing, anti-inflammatories and strength training don’t work.
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