For those that love golf, for those that love athleticism, or maybe even for those who just marvel at the amazing way the human body can move, a golf swing can be poetry in motion; a perfectly executed movement that propels a ball through space and, hopefully, as close to the pin as possible.
In reality, each swing of the club exposes nearly every joint in your body to the possibility of injury. Dr. Park and Dr. Aribindi are here to explain why, and how to prevent these injuries.
Newer golfers tend to experience neck injuries from holding the head in an unfamiliar position. You may feel pain, spasms and tightness.
Shoulders and rotator cuffs are vulnerable to injury because of the repetitive motion as you practice your swing over and over again, back swing through follow through. You may experience tendonitis or bursitis. You can also sustain tears and sprains when your club hits the ground, a root or another immovable object instead of the ball, sending shock waves through your shoulders, wrists and elbows.
The ligaments in your elbows may become inflamed and painful, causing “golfer’s elbow” or “tennis elbow”, depending upon which ligaments are affected. This can be caused by an impact with something other than the ball or repetitive motion.
Wrists are also subject to both impacts and repetitive motion injuries, most commonly resulting in tendonitis. You may notice the pain most at the top of your back swing or when you make contact with the ball.
Hand and fingers may be injured by repetitive motions and trauma, and bones that deform over time.
Back pain is the most common golf injury, caused by the torque of the spine during your swing, compressing and stressing ligaments and discs, and the awkward, slightly bent stance used before each swing - for eighteen holes and countless swings.
Hips are also affected by the rotation and twisting of the body during the swing, with opposing flexion and extension forces as weight shifts from leg to leg.
As that weight shifts, your knees twist and take on force as well, putting strain on these joints all through the swing. When one knee is weaker than the other, your body compensates unconsciously, putting additional strain on the stronger knee and all of your other joints.
The ankles and feet are also twisting, shearing and shifting weight. Each foot makes completely different motions during a swing, further raising the risk of injury as the body tries to regain equilibrium.
Golf can be fraught with injury risk - or it can be a wonderful way to exercise safely. Before you golf, keep in mind the words of Jack Nicklaus who noted, “Professional golfers condition to play golf. Amateur golfers play golf to condition.”
Think like a professional. Strengthen your core, back, legs, arms and shoulders with weight training to build muscles that will protect tendons and ligaments. Stretch thoroughly to warm up every joint and muscle, not just before you begin a round and when you finish, but every day to gain flexibility. Maintain a healthy weight. Always wear well-fitting and comfortable shoes with short spikes. Swing the club before you begin to gauge your range of pain-free motion. Keep your back straight and use your legs to slowly lift and carry your clubs. Avoid hitting immovable objects by inspecting and clearing the ground carefully before you swing. Stay on even surfaces and watch your step carefully in the rough.
Don’t play through pain. If you are hurting more intensely with each swing, it’s time to stop. Apply a cold compress, elevate the injured body part, take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen, and rest.
When you’re serious about improving your game and avoiding injury, make an appointment by calling 708-283-2600 or clicking here. We’ll be happy to review and correct your stance and your swing. We may consider braces or supports to maintain alignment during your swing.
If your pain doesn’t subside in a day or two, make an appointment with Dr. Park or Dr. Aribindi to discuss non-surgical pain relief and consider physical therapy. Playing golf can be a marvelous summer activity when using the proper swing techniques and achieving a fitness level that protects your body.