Tips for a healthy golf game

Robert Cabry, M.D.

Updated: Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 4:00 AM

Dr. Robert Cabry gives advice on playing golf safely to avoid injury. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Championship golf returns to the Philly area with the US Open coming soon to the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA. Golf’s popularity has increased in the last 10 to 15 years, and with spring in the air, more and more golfers are hitting the links.

Golf is a wonderful sport, but if we don’t prepare the golfer can suffer frequent and sometimes serious injuries. Most of these injuries are due to overuse and not taking the time to warm up. Rushing to the course to squeeze in a quick nine before dark can lead to back, shoulder, elbow and wrist problems that can land you in the gallery watching instead of playing.

The most common complaint among golfers at any level is low back pain. The golf swing causes a tremendous torque on our spine and a poor swing makes it even worse. Also, those who carry their bag have twice the risk of injuring their back. Most important in prevention is taking time to warm up. An adequate warm-up of more than 10 minutes has been shown to cut the risk of injury in half. Use proper posture when swinging; don’t hunch over the ball. A regular exercise routine that includes core strengthening will also help to keep you on the course and out of the doctor’s office.

Elbow injuries are the second most common reason to be stuck in the cart and not swinging on the course. Medial epicondylitis or golfer’s elbow is caused by hitting the ball ‘fat’. That’s hitting the ground first. Lateral epicondylitis is caused by over swinging with the hand and over gripping the club.

Another common area of injury is the shoulder. If we don’t use the hips and trunk properly, we end up forcing the ball with the arms and straining the muscles. Strengthening the muscles of the rotator cuff and letting the body do the work as we swing will protect the shoulders from injury.

Overuse and poor swing mechanics can take a toll on the golfer. Taking lessons with a golf pro will not only help your game, but also greatly reduce your risk of injury. Also, take the time to warm up, start slowly and hit the gym to strengthen the muscles.

Finally, a life threatening risk to your golf game is lightning. Every year there are serious injuries on the golf course from lightning strikes. Have a plan to seek safe shelter in the clubhouse or closed vehicle. Do not stand in the fairway or under a tree. If you are stuck where you are, lie down in a sand trap and wait it out. The lightning that hits the ground travels parallel, so being below it in a sand trap could save your life.

I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone's golf game: it's called an eraser. ~Arnold Palmer

Have fun out there!

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.

Robert Cabry, M.D.

Read full story: Tips for a healthy golf game