Golf: Injury Prevention Techniques that Could Save Your Season
While many think of golf as a fairly relaxed or low impact game, it can actually be quite physically demanding, and if your body is not properly prepared, it can cause a host of injuries. Research has shown golf to have a surprisingly high rate of injury, with PGA tour players averaging two injuries per year, and as many as one third of elite touring athletes playing injured at any given time.1,2 The lower back tends to be the most common injury site, though shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries are also common.1,6,7,8
Injuries are not only painful, but can limit your ability to participate all together. With time out of play averaging about 4 weeks per injury for recreational players6, using some simple injury prevention techniques can mean the difference between a great season or a shortened one.
Following these few simple tips can help prevent injury AND improve your golf game:
1. Warm-up before you tee-up – warming up your body properly for any sport is key to injury prevention, and some studies have shown that most golfers don’t give themselves adequate warm up periods (five minutes or less).9 There is a lot of debate in the sports medicine field as to what constitutes an appropriate warm up for various activities. Warming up the body and muscles is a great way to increase your body temperature and get you more ready to react/perform. You should warm up for at least 10 minutes, and this should encompass the following3:
- General Body Warm-Up: a brisk walk, climbing a set of stairs, or swinging from side-to-side with a golf club behind your back are all great low impact ways to get your blood flowing. Park your car as far from the club house as possible, and get your warm-up in on the way to the course!
- Stretching: While there is little evidence to support that stretching will prevent injury, a regular stretching program will provide you with greater mobility and flexibility, which can in turn benefit your swing.
- Golf-Specific Dynamic Stretching: A dynamic stretch is something that you would usually do during the course of the activity. This would include doing several practice swings to get your body warmed up, and it’s great to improve your technique.
- Practice: As they say, “it makes perfect,” and golf is the epitome of this old adage. Start by hitting shorter shots, and build up to longer ones, warming up your muscles as you go.
2. Focus on technique – well ok, this one might seem like we’re pointing out the obvious, but the truth is that a golf swing requires a significant amount of range of motion throughout the entire body. Due to the high velocity that the body moves through the swing, your body is much more prone to injury. The golf swing has been shown to create spinal compressive forces equal to about 8 times a person’s body weight.4 This substantial amount of force can lead to injury. It’s best to work with a Golf Pro or Physical Therapist familiar with golf technique to ensure that you are moving in the best way to prevent injury and increase your performance.
3. Increase your strength and flexibility – as we mentioned in #2, the golf swing takes a significant range of motion. Stretching and strengthening your core muscles as well as your wrists and forearms are particularly useful in preventing golf’s most common injuries.
4. Set-up your swing with good posture – ok, so here we are on technique again, but starting your swing with the proper stance is a critical aspect of the ‘perfect swing.’ You want to bend from your hips, rather than your spine, allowing your arms to hang comfortably in front. Your hips are a major support and are much stronger and more flexible than the vertebrae in your spine. If you instead flex your spine, this will prevent you from getting full rotation during the backswing.
5. Don’t take a knife to a gun fight – proper equipment can play a big role in injury prevention. Be sure that your clubs are well fitted to your individual needs; this will help you to achieve better technique, therefore preventing injury.
6. Keep up on cardio – walking the golf course is equivalent to about a 6.2 mile hike. Add lugging around your golf clubs, and this can turn into a real cardiovascular workout. If you’re just starting out the season after a winter of being sedentary, getting back into things slowly and gradually increasing your cardio (you can do this via walking 3-4x/wk the three weeks leading up to the season) will help get you ready for a day on the course.3
7. Stay hydrated – it only takes about a 3% loss in body weight from dehydration before your performance is affected.5 And no, a brew from the beer cart doesn’t count.
8. Know your limits – if it hurts, there’s something wrong, and there is no need to push through the pain. Seek professional help from a Physical Therapist if you are experiencing any pain with golf activity. This will help to not only get you back on the course sooner, but also teach you valuable techniques to prevent re-injury.
- McCarroll, J.R., The Frequency of Golf Injuries, Clinics in Sport Medicine, 1996, 15, 1-7.
- McCarroll, J.R., Rettig, A.C. and Shelbourne, D.D., Injuries in the Amateur Golfer, The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 1990, 18, 122-126.
- Lindsye, D.M, Versteegh, T.H, and Vandervoort, A.A., Injury Prevention: Avoiding One of Golf’s Most Painful Hazards, International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 2009, 141-143.
- Hosea, T.M., Gatt, C.J., Galli, K.M. and Gertner, E., Biomechanical Analysis of the Golfer’s Back, in: Stover C.N., McCarroll J.R. and Mallon W.J., eds., Feeling up to Par: Medicine from Tee to Green, F.A. Davis Co., Philadelphia, 1994, 97-108.
- Wilmore, J.L., Costill, D.H. and Kearney, W.L., Physiology of Sport and Exercise, 4th edn., Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, 2008.
- Gosheger, G., Liem, D., Ludwig, K., Greshake, O. and Winkelmann, W., Injuries and Overuse Syndromes in Golf, American Journal of Sports Medicine, 2003, 31, 438-443
- Fradkin, A.J., Windley, T.C., Myers, J.B., Sell, T.C. and Lephart, S.M., Decribing the Epidemiology and Associated Age, Gender, and Handicap Comparisons of Golfing Injuries, International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion, 2001, 14, 264-266
- McHardy, A., Pollard, H. and Luo, K., Golf Injuries: A Review of the Literature, Sports Medicine, 2006, 36, 171-187
- Palmer, J.L., Young, S.D., Fox, Lindsay, D.M. and Vandervoort, A.A., Senior Recreational Golfers: A Survey of Musculoskeletal Conditions, Playing Characteristics and Warm-Up Patterns, Physiotherapy Canada, 2003, 55, 79-85.