Posture, technique keys to fighting off golf injury

Andy North chips out of the sand to reach the 11th green during the opening round of the Senior PGA Championship golf tournament in Parker, Colo., on Thursday, May 27, 2010. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Golfing can be a great and relaxing sport for many to enjoy, but there are common injuries that can occur in the weekend warrior golfer.

Golf is a full body sport—your swing and stroke involves your entire body. Injuries can occur in many different places, the most common occurring in the low back, elbows and shoulders.

Low back or lumbar injuries can occur during the coordinated movement of the golf swing. This area of your body is subjected to several forces: lateral bending, shearing, compression and rotation. Amateurs often swing harder, instead of more skillfully, to hit the ball farther. This increase of force puts stress on your body and tends to lead to low back injuries. As you get older, you also have an increased opportunity for arthritis as your spine will become less flexible. Good body and swing mechanics is essential for the prevention of low back injuries.

Golfer’s elbow, known as Medial Epicondylitis, is due to an overuse of the muscles inserting on the inside of the elbow. Golfers usually have pain on the inside of the elbow when they push their hands together as well as tenderness on the medial epicondyle, which is the prominent boney bump on the inside of your elbow.

This injury is usually due to an increased incidence of rounds played per week or even per day. As you age, your likelihood of increased incidence of exceeding your threshold are much higher. These incidences are usually due to overuse, strong grip on the clubs, and golfers who take large divots, putting an increased amount of stress on the elbow.

Shoulder injuries usually occur by overuse rather than any specific component of the swing itself. The leading shoulder, more often injured, is subject to an extreme range of motion which increases the risk of injury. We tend to see more shoulder muscle strains, bursitis or rotator cuff injuries including tendonitis and tears, as golfers age or with increased rounds of golf per week.

Some golfers will have pain when starting to lift arm to the side, sometimes with radiating pain down the arm out to the elbow. There may be tenderness on the outer aspect of the shoulder joint during palpation. Some people have severe pain just before and just after the arm is horizontal. Yet others will have pain when lying on the injured side at night or weakness in the affected arm. With any of these symptoms, a patient should be evaluated by a physician.

Like many injuries, prevention starts with proper warm up, stretching exercises that are specific to the sport of golf, strengthening exercises with an endurance base, and the utilization of good body mechanics and swing mechanics. Utilization of proper equipment is also a necessity. A five minute warm-up prior to playing is essential as well, with an emphasis on the wrists, shoulders, and back.

Remember—proper posture plus technique will equal injury prevention and longer time playing your sport.

Lawrence S. Miller, M.D., is Director of the Cooper Bone and Joint Institute and of Cooper's Sports Medicine Program.


Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.