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Find Relief from These 5 Common Golf Injuries

Four golfers walk across the fairway.

/ by Peter Gray, MA, LAT, ATC

Golf is a fun sport that challenges both the mind and body. But whether you’re consistently shooting under par or slicing your tee shot more often than not, a leisurely trip to the links can end in a painful injury if you’re not careful.

UK HealthCare is the official healthcare provider of this week’s PGA Barbasol Championship being being held at Champions at Keene Trace in Nicholasville, where we will provide first-aid services and sports medicine support.

With that in mind, here are five of the most common golf injuries and what you can do to find relief.

Lower back injury

Your swing can put significant pressure on your spine and back muscles, which makes the back the most common source of injury for golfers.

Lower back pain can be a result of a traumatic event (that one really bad swing). More often, however, it comes on gradually and is associated with a golf swing that creates unbalanced stress across the back.

The good news is that stabilization exercises and core strengthening have been shown to reduce the recurrence of low back pain. In fact, many professional golfers engage in warm-up exercise routines designed specifically to emphasize mobility of the shoulders, trunk, and hip muscles, which can help limit back pain and injury.

Post-round prevention programs focus on improving general flexibility in the large muscles of the low back and hips, as well as treating muscular imbalances created from repetitive swinging of the golf club.

Shoulder injury

Golfing requires a coordinated effort by your shoulder muscles, including the stabilizing muscles known as the rotator cuff, which allow the arm to be raised and lowered.

Perhaps the most common shoulder injury is shoulder tendonitis, or swelling of the tendons in the shoulder muscles. Strength training as well as stretching exercises can help prevent shoulder injuries.

Elbow injury

Golfers can experience elbow injuries if they grip the club too tightly, allow the club head to strike the ground before hitting the ball or hit the ball through heavy rough, which can cause significant strain on the forearm and elbow.

Golfer’s elbow is a condition commonly found in golfers and typically affects the trailing arm and results from poor swing form. It’s a common golf swing mistake to push the club through the swing with the trailing arm instead of pulling with the lead arm.

Signs of golfer’s elbow include tenderness and pain over the inside of the elbow and pain with resisted finger movement.

Treatment usually includes rest and use of anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Forearm muscle strengthening can also help prevent elbow pain and injury.

Knee injury

Knee injuries in golfers are rarer than other types of injury. Injuries can occur, however, because the golf swing generates rotational forces on the knee that can cause strain on the knee.

Most knee injuries can be managed with anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and potentially a corticosteroid injection when appropriate.

Wrist injury

Both wrists must move through an extensive range of motion to execute a proper golf swing, and wrist injuries are common in all golfers. Injuries are most common in the lead wrist. A sudden, forceful impact to the wrist resulting from striking the ground before the ball may cause injury. The repetitive rotation motions of the swing can also cause pain and injury. Initial treatment involves rest, immobilization and anti-inflammatory medication.

One of the best way to prevent wrist injuries, and many other golf-related injuries is with a golf-specific exercise program. This should emphasize improving strength and stability in the core/lumbar spine, shoulder muscles and hips while also maximizing mobility in the hip joints and thoracic spine.

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