wrist injuries can impact golf performance

Play It Safe: 5 Common Golf Injuries and How to Prevent Them

There are many reasons why people choose to pursue golf: it’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors, socialize with others, and it’s regarded as a relatively low impact sport. You can also modify the intensity of it by either taking an electric cart, using a pull cart, or carrying your clubs as you go. All are great options depending on your current level of fitness.

However, just like with any kind of physical activity, there is always a risk of injury.

While golf is a generally low-impact and low-risk sport, there are injuries that both casual and professional golfers alike may develop. Swinging a club, upon observation, looks like such a fluid and gentle effort... but golfing activates a lot of different joints and muscles throughout your body that can wear and tear through repetition, overuse, or improper form.

Here are five common golf injuries to be aware of as you’re hitting the course and practicing your golf swing:

Knee Injuries

While keeping your knees bent is an integral part of the golf swing, the rotational stress that is put on your knee when you do can lead to problems. A lot of force passes through the knee joint and it has to work hard to keep you upright and active.

Due to the repetitive forces your knee endures during golf, it is at risk of  strained or torn muscles, ligaments, or tendons, and even deterioration of the cartilage – the soft tissue that helps shock absorb and protect the bones in your joints.  The most common type of cartilage tear is in the meniscus, which is the area located between your thigh bone and shin bone. 

People suffering from this injury will describe consistent sharp pain, difficulty with mobility because of the discomfort, swelling and stiffness of the knee, and a very limited range of motion.

Osteoarthritis is another common knee problem that golfers experience. This occurs when the cartilage in the knee deteriorates and becomes less effective at protecting the bones in your joints.  People who develop arthritis in their knee(s) experience swelling, stiffness, and/or to increased symptoms after prolonged activity.

Back Injuries

Golfers spend a lot of time bent at the back. Between trying to have a good swing, getting the lay of the land on the green, and getting your ball out of a hazard, you might find yourself with some unusual posture of the golf course.

With this in mind, it probably comes as no surprise that back injuries are incredibly common amongst golfers.

Repeated bending and twisted motions, particularly if they’re executed improperly, can produce severe muscle strains, especially where proper strength training is not a routine occurrence. Herniated discs are another common issue to increased symptoms after prolonged activity and cause radiating back pain, numbness, and tingling in the back.

For those golfers who have osteoporosis (a weakening of the bones), compression fractures are also an increased risk. Also common in thoracic spine and people who suffer from them usually find that their pain increases when they go through long periods of sitting or standing.

Elbow Injuries

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The most common type of elbow injury is one that you may have heard before. The medical term is ‘lateral epicondylitis’ but it’s more famously known as ‘tennis elbow’. Contrary to what the name suggests, this elbow injury doesn’t only extend to tennis players – golfers also see their fair share of it!

Caused by continuous overuse of the elbow, this injury occurs when the tendons connecting your forearms muscles to your bones become inflamed. Many people choose to play through the discomfort which can increase your symptoms and prolong recovery. The result is pain, numbness, stiffness, and/or tingling that radiates in the elbow, or even a large and uncomfortable lump on the elbow itself.

Shoulder Injuries

Your shoulders are one of the areas that are engaged the most when it comes to your golf swing so it’s not uncommon to develop issues there - especially in the rotator cuff, a group of tendons that are responsible for providing stability in your shoulder.

A tear happens when the tendon, or tendons, that make up the rotator cuff suffer an injury and either fully or partially disconnect from the humerus bone.

Tendonitis, another common shoulder issue, can develop when those same tendons become compressed against the shoulder blade, usually because of the continuous overhead motions that accompany a golf swing.

Symptoms of a shoulder/rotator cuff injury include ongoing shoulder pain, weakness when moving your arms overhead or behind your back, ‘popping’ or ‘clicking’ sounds that occur when you move your shoulder, and/or a limited range of motion.

Wrist Injuries

The position and movement of your wrists during golf is something that most don’t think about but, just like with your shoulders, knees, and elbows, wrist tendons can become inflamed and fatigued. This can affect your ability to swing properly - and, in severe cases, may result in you not being able to hold your club at all. 

Wrist tendinitis is the most common hand injury experienced by golfers. Similar to tendonitis that occurs in the shoulder, it occurs when the tendons in the wrist become inflamed and begin to compress. The result is pain and discomfort that flares from the wrist and can often leave it feeling tight and uncomfortable.  

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Preventing Golf Injuries

There are several at home methods that you can use to help prevent or alleviate golf injuries.

  1. Take 10-20 minutes to warm up before heading out for your round. Make sure that you’re stretching your arms, legs, hips, back, wrists, and shoulders. Stretches should be gentle and should not cause any pain or discomfort.
  2. Developing flexibility and muscle strength throughout the entire body is an important part of staying healthy, strong, and injury-free.
  3. Your physiotherapist, chiropractor, or massage therapist can give you a great stretching and strengthening routine while also showing you how to perform the stretches correctly to avoid additional stress on your body.
  4. If you’re worried that your form might be causing you issues, a golf professional can help you evaluate your swing and adjust it accordingly.
  5. Follow the RICE method. If you feel that you may have injured yourself, but are not able to visit for a treatment right away, it is important that you take time to treat your injury with rest, ice, elevation, and compression - all of which can help with pain and swelling.

If you’ve started experiencing pain before, during, or after your golf game, make sure that you are giving yourself adequate time to heal. Don’t rush recovery or you may end up prolonging the healing and recovery process. 

If you’ve received a new injury or noticed that your injury isn’t getting any better, make an appointment with your chiropractor or physiotherapist, who can help you diagnose, manage, and treat your pain.

Have Questions? Contact Us

Whether you’re experiencing discomfort, have an injury that needs to be treated, or are looking to implement a preventative routine, we can help.

Our experts will work with you to develop a recovery plan to get you back out on the course. We can’t promise to take any strokes off your golf game… but we can definitely help you get back to doing what it is that you love.

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