Golf Can Sting

By Chelle Cordero

November 21, 2013 4 min read

Golf is known as a thoughtful and potentially calming sport. Players hit golf balls, handicaps help equalize skill levels, and the player with the lowest score is the winner. Many people do not realize that playing a round of golf can sometimes prove hazardous as players drive and putt through greens, sand traps and lakes with the hoped-for goal of landing in a hole in the ground.

The repetitive motion of swinging clubs several times per game, usually multiple swings for 18 holes, leads to the most common golf injuries. They tend to occur in the lower back, elbows, shoulders, hands and wrists, and are generally defined as either cumulative (overuse) or acute (traumatic) injuries. The impact and stress of the repetitive motion is sometimes hard on the muscles and joints, and these injuries are among the most frequent in this country. Fortunately, less than half of golfers experience injuries.

Pain in the back could be caused by poor posture or by using a club that is too short. Back pain is the most common ailment for a golfer. Golfers hunch over as they set up their swings, afterwards there can be pain and tenderness or possibly spasms. The way to alleviate this particular problem is easy -- using a longer club will allow golfers to stand straighter. Carrying a heavy golf bag may strain a golfer's back. Hiring a caddy, getting a golf bag with wheels or using a golf cart to travel through the course can keep a player from straining under the weight.

Golfer's elbow and rotator cuff injuries are caused by the repetitive movement from multiple swings during a round of golf. Elbow injuries are characterized by pain and tenderness in the forearms and weakness in the hands. The shoulder may be sore and inflamed. Rest and icing is recommended for occasional and moderate to minor events. Severe cases of golfer's elbow may need cortisone shots and shoulder injuries may require arthroscopic surgery.

The wrist and hand are subjected to the impact of the club hitting the ball on the tee or on the rough. The repeated impact can cause strain, and an improper wrist placement can lead to fractures, sprains and ruptured tendons. Players can suffer swelling, pain and stiffness in the wrist or at the base of the thumb. Tingling and numbness in the fingers and difficulty handling the club could be an indication of carpal tunnel syndrome. If golfers experience any of these symptoms, they should seek medical attention right away. X-rays and surgical intervention may be necessary for severe pain or possible fractures. Players can decrease their chances of chronic problems with rest, icing and gently squeezing a tennis ball to strengthen the muscles of the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder. Choosing a club with a comfortable grip and shock absorbing material will also help.

Knee and hip injuries rarely occur from playing golf, but pre-existing conditions can be exacerbated by long periods of standing and walking, uneven terrain and even the swing itself. Wearing golf shoes with short cleats will allow the golfer more freedom of movement and lessen the likelihood of straining the muscles after taking a swing. Icing the tender area and increasing resting time will help most knee and hip pain. A doctor should tend to severe pain.

Most golfers come away from a round of golf feeling relaxed and perhaps a little tired. To avoid other, less pleasant, outcomes, keep these hints in mind. Most injuries occur to amateur and beginning golfers, but working on the golf swing and using well-fitted clubs, shoes and cleats can minimize risk. Working with a professional golf instructor is the best way to learn how to swing pain-free and how to choose proper equipment. Ask fellow golfers for instructors they might recommend and do some research online. Members of the Professional Golfers' Association of America are ranked in regions, so be sure to take a look at the data on the PGA website.

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