Happy Masters Week! It’s time to talk some golf…injuries that is. Golf is a unique sport in that the age range of people actively playing it is enormous. The growth of the game among the youth of our nation has increased dramatically in the last 5-10 years and we all know that once you start playing, it is a sickness that has no cure. Golfers play well into their golden years regardless of their level of play, and that is the beauty of the game.
Jack Nicklaus once said that “golf is 90% mental and 10% physical, yet that 10% is still enough to cause pain and dysfunction.” Okay maybe I added that last part, but the golf swing is so intricate that even the smallest biomechanical flaws can trigger injury. Tiger Woods has been the poster boy for golf related injury most recently for his numerous lumbar spine surgeries. Additionally, how could we all forget when he won the US Open on a torn ACL and double stress fractures in his left knee and leg! While the torque from Wood’s incredibly powerful swing was enough to obliterate his lead leg, the average person’s swing probably wouldn’t do damage to that extent.
It’s commonly assumed that someone would most frequently injure their shoulders while swinging a golf club. However, the majority of the golf swing comes from core rotation and the legs/hips meaning that repeatedly subjecting your body to these movements with improper form can wreak havoc on your spine. A professional golfer’s swing can reach speeds of up to 130 mph which puts an enormous amount of rotational stress on the lumbar spine. This causes lower back pain to be the number one golf related injury that we see. As a matter of fact, a recent study showed that 33% of PGA Tour golfers experienced play-related lower back pain to some degree within the last five years. If the core and smaller spinal stability muscles are not properly conditioned, the golf swing’s shearing forces can lead to considerable soft tissue damage. Bulging or herniated discs can leave you in considerable pain and off of the course. The second most common golf related injury reported is elbow tendinitis (tennis/golfer’s elbow). Forceful, repeated pronation and extension of the forearm and elbow are the culprit for elbow tendinitis. Weak musculature around the joint leads to improper biomechanics during the golf swing which irritates the tendons and ligaments surrounding the elbow. We have also seen golfers complaining of rotator cuff/shoulder pain (mostly in the lead arm of the swing), as well as wrist and thumb pain.
So how can this be prevented or dealt with? Keep up with your fitness and flexibility! It has been see more and more recently on tour. The Pro’s are keying in to their physical fitness considerably and the results are paying off! Every top pro now pays heavy attention to their body in order to perform better and stay injury free. In no way am I suggesting to attempt to add twenty pounds of muscle, but hitting the gym or working with a physical therapist is a great example of how new school thinking on physical fitness is changing the game. Pro’s from the past would avoid the weight room like the plague, but the young guys prove it’s a necessity. Keep it simple. Try doing some body weight squats, planks, maybe even some light dead lifts and stretch regularly. DON’T forget to warm up, it can literally be the difference between injury and enjoying your round. Our friends at Mayo Clinic have laid out a nice and simple routine to stay in golf shape. Check it out here. In our office, we use TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) exercises in conjunction with laser treatments to help patients get back on the course as soon as possible. For those interested in optimizing your game by erasing any limitations, contact us! Hit ’em straight (and long).