Golf is an individual sport played by hitting a ball with a club from a tee into a hole. The main objective is to get the ball into the hole with the least number of swings or strokes of the club. Golf is a hugely popular sport that is enjoyed by people of all ages. The playing area for golf is known as a golf course.
These courses are the surface on which all golf matches take place, consisting of a grass course that includes a tee box, fairway, and green. They can also feature obstacles, known as hazards, such as bunkers, water, and woods. Par is the designated number of strokes that it should take an average golfer to complete each hole on a course. Each hole’s par can be located on the scoreboard or a sign around the tee box.
It is important to understand the potential injury risks you may experience when playing golf. Several studies have shown that some of these injuries are due to playing in unsafe environments, swinging improperly, and/or experiencing falls or a fracture. Therefore, this article will explain some of the most common causes associated with the sport, the best ways to avoid and prevent injuries, recommended exercises you can perform whether at home or before engaging in the activity, and a set of treatments that may reduce symptoms such as pain, swelling, and inflammation.
Common Golf Injuries
Golf generally requires a lot of time and effort. The ultimate nature of the swing can put a large amount of stress on the body, and a majority of professional athletes have experienced some sort of injury at one time in their careers. Some of these golfing injuries include the following:
Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis)
Golfer’s elbow is a condition that leads to inflammation and soreness where the forearm tendons and muscles attach to the bone, causing inner elbow pain. While the injury can develop from sudden trauma, in golfers it is usually the result of repetitive stress on the tendons in the forearm.
Wrist tendonitis is a popular injury that professional golfers struggle with because of how crucial wrist movement is in golf. Wrist tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendons in the wrist. The key to a proper and successful swing in golf is to turn your wrists in motion with the swing, so many golfers train to focus on perfecting their wrist movements.
In a golf swing, the hip starts in a bent position and then moves away from the midline point of the body (abduction) before returning. Hip tendonitis, inflammation, pain, and micro-tears in the hip soft tissue are all common golf injuries. Maintaining strong gluteal, abdominal, and leg muscles is recommended for golfers. Therefore, weakness in these muscles can increase the chances of hip injuries, groin strains, and lower back issues.
Shoulder pain is another common injury to occur for many professional golfers. This injury occurs when the rotator cuff tendons get trapped under the bones in the shoulder, causing inflammation. Shoulder pain in golf is caused by a blunt force stopping the golf club midway through a swing, such as hitting the ground, or the repetitive movement of the golf swing itself. In addition, this pain may begin as just discomfort but could develop into a serious condition, from shoulder tendonitis, bursitis, or even a separation.
For golfing, knee pain is typically from a ruptured ligament or a torn cartilage. Knee pain in golf doesn’t usually happen overnight or is torn from a blunt force; most times, golfers slowly develop this injury over time after constant repetition. When swinging the golf club, golfers stabilize the hip rotation with the help of their knees, causing golfers to put a strain on their knees.
How Can Golf Injuries be Prevented?
Golf is usually considered a low-level physical activity without much risk for injuries. However, many of them can be caused by simply playing the activity. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent a golfing injury such as the ones mentioned earlier. Here is a prevention guide you can try and perform before or after engaging in a golfing match:
Golf is regularly played outdoors, which can lead to skin injuries like sunburns. Protect your skin by using sunscreen. Wear sunglasses to filter out UVA and UVB rays and wear a hat with a visor to shade your eyes and face. Also, equip golf shoes that have short cleats. Long cleats dig into the sod and hold your feet planted as you swing, which may place more strain on your knees.
Improve your endurance
Performing regular aerobic activities can improve your athletic performance on the course. Try walking, jogging, bicycling, or swimming.
Avoid incorrect postures
When preparing to hit the golf ball during a game, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and rotated slightly outward, and with your knees slightly bent. Hold your spine straight and your trunk tilted forward. Avoid hunching over the ball, which can result in neck and back strain.
Even mild levels of dehydration can affect your overall athletic performance. If you have not had enough fluids, your body will not be able to effectively cool itself through sweat and evaporation. A great recommendation is to drink at least 24 ounces of non-caffeinated beverages 2 hours before performing any activity. Drinking an additional 8 ounces of water or a sports drink right before exercise is also helpful.
Prioritize safety in your environment
Before playing golf, ensure you are dressed in the correct attire for the conditions. For instance, if conditions are slippy, make sure you are wearing shoes with excellent grip. Also, if you are playing in rain, avoid a lightning strike by seeking shelter at the first sign of a thunderstorm. If possible, head for a large, permanent building or fully enclosed metal vehicle, such as a car or van, when storms approach. Lastly, always be aware of your environment and other players on the course. It is possible to sustain a soft-tissue injury by being hit by a golf ball.
Warm up before playing
Take the time to warm up and stretch before a golfing match. Studies have shown that cold muscles are much more prone to injury.
Best Exercises to Prevent Golf Injuries
Playing golf is generally a great way to enjoy low-impact exercise. Overall, it is a competitive, social sport that involves frequent walking around a course. However, the repetitive motion of swinging your club can cause pain and injury. Therefore, it is recommended that you perform these stretches before and after a game of golf:
Seated Hip Stretch
Begin by sitting up straight on a bench, a chair, or the floor. Put your left ankle on top of your right thigh, then plant your right foot on the ground. Move your torso forward, bending at your waist. Continue until you feel a good stretch in your left hip. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then repeat 2-5 times on each side.
Start this stretch by facing the back of the bench, feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the back of the chair and take a step back until your arms are extended. Lower your upper body, keeping your back straight. Continue until you feel a stretch in your armpits. Hold this position for 30 seconds before repeating 2-5 times on each side.
Start with your back facing the bench, feet hip-width apart. Next, place your hands on your hips or clasp your hands in front of your chest. Bend your right knee, then rest the top of your right foot on the bench. Bend the left knee, being careful to keep it well-aligned over the left ankle. Finally, straighten the left leg, returning to your standing position. Repeat this method 2-5 times on each side.
How To Treat Golf Injuries
Treating a golf injury varies depending on the type and severity of the issue. Although each of the injuries mentioned below may require certain specific types of treatment, each of them is very effective for pain and healing:
- Brace – A band worn over the muscle belly just below the injured elbow can improve symptoms such as pain and inflammation.
- Wrist splint – Wearing a splint can improve pain by limiting wrist flexion and extension.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) – Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help lessen injury-related pain and will also reduce swelling and inflammation.
- Ice and heat application – An ice pack and heat pad can help reduce your recovery time. Whether you have knee pain, wrist injuries, golfer’s elbow, or other elbow injuries, daily ice and heat sessions may help reduce inflammation and pain.
- Massage – Massages are a great way to help loosen up your forearm muscles and other parts of your body that are impacted by playing golf. Adding an essential oil such as lavender oil can also help heal your injury rapidly due to its inflammatory properties.