How to avoid those annoying golf injuries

Published 9:30 am Monday, July 5, 2010

Though golf is not a contact sport many injuries do occur on the greens. Golfers are perfectionists looking for the perfect swing so they can have their Jack Nicklaus moment. The fact of the matter is that golf is usually done in an imperfect way. Most of us have some sort of swing flaw. While we are trying to have the ideal grip, club head speed, hip rotation, weight transfer, etc., we are engaging our body in an awkward dance. These swing flaws put unnecessary stress on our bodies.

The most commonly injured area of any golfer is their lower back, followed by the elbow (which we commonly call golfer’s elbow). Over the course of 18 holes these injuries can worsen and lead to further problems. Knowing when to step off the course may be the difference in being able to “walk off” the problem or having to seek further care.

Proper warm-up followed by golf-related stretches can help prevent some of these problems. A good warm-up routine can consist of many different activities. A brisk walk for about five to 10 minutes is a good way to get started. The main point of a warm-up is to get your blood flowing so your muscles have access to more oxygen.

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Simple stretching techniques can help keep the muscles from tightening up. Start by slowly bending forward while keeping your knees slightly bent. Hold this stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds. You also can widen your stance and repeat. This will help stretch the lower back along with the hamstrings. Some other stretches, called ballistic stretches, can also be helpful. These are stretches done with movement.

One of these include taking your golf club and putting it on your shoulders with your arms resting on top of it. Then slowly rotate side to side. You can also add a twisting motion with this to stretch even more muscles.

Another stretch is one that can be done right before you tee off. It is called the backswing stretch. First, extend the left arm out in front of you (if you are a right-handed golfer). Then take both hands and place on top of the club. Drop the upper body down against club to feel a stretch in your left shoulder. Hold this for at least 15 seconds, repeat once more, then do the opposite arm for your follow-through side.

If you’re halfway through your round and you begin to feel some tension building up in your lower back, take a seat. With your body remaining upright, take your left arm and place it behind you. This will cause your body to rotate. Use your right arm to put pressure up against your left leg which will create torque. Hold each stretch again for about 20 to 30 seconds. Rinse and repeat for the other side.

If you are feeling some pressure in your elbow, take your hands and put your palms together like a prayer gesture. Make sure you keep your elbows as close to 90 degrees to your wrists as possible. You should feel a stretch along the inner part of your forearm. Place the back sides of your hands together and repeat the same stretch. This will stretch the back of your forearms. Again, hold each stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds.

There are two categories that most golf injuries fall into. Acute injuries or very recent injuries, which may have occurred earlier that round while stepping in a gopher hole or while creating a divot. The more common type of injury is a chronic injury. These have occurred over years, usually as a result of muscle, tendon and ligament fatigue. This fatigue occurs when overall conditioning wanes or simply tires during a round. Once a condition has become chronic, the longer it is going to take to correct.

To fully treat these types of injuries and also to prevent recurrence it may require a comprehensive program that can include chiropractic, massage therapy, physiotherapy and/or acupuncture. To make sure you are properly strengthened, a course of physical therapy followed by proper strength training can be used. Also, a good swing coach can help you to adjust your swing movement, which may have been at the root of the problem. A properly tailored fitness program can go far in reducing the chance of recurrence of golf related injury.

Dr. Jeff Eaton practices chiropractic medicine at Eaton Sport and Spine Clinic.