Stay on Par this Golf Season, Injury Free

Swinging the club on the open green, hitting the perfect shot and playing in the warm sun are just a few things golfers love about hitting the links. Golfing can be a treat for both the mind and body. However, an injury to the bones, muscles or joints can cast a big shadow over the day. That is why Vail-Summit Orthopaedics recommends following the proper techniques to prevent golf-related injuries.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • There were more than 103,000 golf-related injuries treated in doctors’ offices, clinics and emergency rooms in 2007, which incurred a total cost of approximately $2.4 billion in medical, work-loss, pain and suffering, and legal fees.
  • Golfers most often suffer from hand tenderness or numbness; shoulder, back and knee pain; golfer’s elbow; and wrist injuries, such as tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

People often think of golf as a relatively safe, low-injury game. But golfers - especially beginners, who haven’t learned proper techniques yet – are more susceptible to injuries from overuse and poor mechanics. It’s important for golfers to regularly participate in a muscle conditioning program to reduce the risk of common golf injuries.
Because orthopaedic specialists not only treat, but try to prevent injuries of the bones, joints and muscles, we offer the following tips to help prevent golfing injuries:

  • Newer golfers should take lessons and begin participating in the sport gradually.
  • Practice on real turf instead of rubber mats, when possible.
  • Dress for comfort and protection from the elements. Make sure to wear the appropriate golf shoes: ones with short cleats are best.
  • Do not hunch over the ball too much; it may predispose you to neck strain and rotator cuff tendinitis.
  • Avoid golfer’s elbow – which is caused by a strain of the muscles in the inside of the forearm – by performing wrist and forearm stretching exercises and not overemphasizing your wrists when swinging.

So whether you are a veteran returning to the green after a seasonal hiatus or a beginning golfer, it is important to start out slowly and gradually increasing the number of holes you play. Instead of going for 36 holes your first day back on the green, hit just a single bucket of balls the first time out. The next day, see how your bones and joints feel to gauge whether or not you can increase your swing velocity and number of repetitions.
Remember that no matter how prepared you are for an activity, there is still the possibility for injury. By following safety guidelines, you greatly decrease the chances for injury, but still there is no full-proof method. If an injury occurs, the key to full recovery lies in understanding how to get the proper help you need. My colleagues and I at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics have extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of non-surgical as well as surgical treatment of the musculoskeletal system including bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves.

Dr. Scott Raub is a physiatrist with Vail • Summit Orthopaedics. He specializes in non-surgical spine care and electrodiagnostic testing.