3 Common Golf Injuries: How to Avoid the “Rough”

Article from Brigham Health Hub, written by Elizabeth G. Matzkin, MD

Golf is a lifetime sport – people of all ages and activity levels can participate. It is a great way to get outside and stay active, especially if you choose to walk the course. On average, a golfer playing 18 holes on foot will walk anywhere from three to six miles. Injuries are common at all levels of play, from first-time golfers to professionals. Before you take your first swing of the season, be sure to check out the tips below on signs, symptoms, and prevention of common golf injuries.

1. Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

What is it?

The rotator cuff is a group of important muscles and tendons in your shoulder. Rotator cuff tendinitis is caused by inflammation of these tendons, leading to pain and decreased function. Rotator cuff tendinitis is commonly associated with overuse. Signs and symptoms include pain with overhead movements or repetitive motions of the shoulder.

How can I prevent this?

Rotator cuff tendinitis can be caused by overuse or improper technique during your swing, putting too much stress on the shoulder. Consult a golf instructor for suggestions on improving swing technique. You should always stretch out your shoulders and warm up with a few exercises before you start swinging for the day.

How is it treated?

If your doctor suspects you have rotator cuff tendinitis, they may prescribe rest, ice, and an anti-inflammatory medication. Your doctor also may recommend physical therapy to help maximize shoulder strength and function. If you have a flare-up of significant pain that limits motion, sometimes your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid injection to decrease acute inflammation.

2. Golfer’s Elbow

What is it?

Medial epicondylitis, also known as golfer’s elbow, is caused by inflammation of the tendons and muscles on the inside of the elbow. Golfer’s elbow is a common overuse injury, caused by repetitive motions. Signs and symptoms of golfer’s elbow include persistent pain on the inside of the elbow and pain during movements of the wrist, such as turning a doorknob or shaking hands.

How can I prevent this?

Golfer’s elbow can be caused by improper swing technique that puts additional stress on the tendons of the inside of the elbow. Ask a golf instructor to recommend techniques that minimize stress on the elbow during a swing. In addition, make sure you are using golf clubs that are the right fit for your size and strength.

How is it treated?

If your doctor suspects you have golfer’s elbow, they will likely prescribe rest, ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy to strengthen your elbow muscles and tendons. Your doctor also may prescribe a wrist brace or forearm band to help reduce pain with movements of the wrist.

3. Knee Pain

What is it?

A golf swing requires rotation of the knee as you turn your hips and shoulders to follow through. This movement can cause or aggravate a torn meniscus, a cartilage structure in the knee that helps absorb the impact of walking and rotation during a swing. For older golfers, this movement also can exacerbate pre-existing arthritis.

How do I prevent it?

Weakness in the thigh muscles, like the hip flexors, quadriceps, and hamstrings, puts additional pressure on the knee joint when walking and especially during a golf swing. Specific exercises that target these muscle groups will maximize your strength and help to take pressure off of the knee joint, decreasing pain during golf or other daily activities. Proper swing technique is also important to minimize the rotational forces on the knee.

How is it treated?

If your doctor suspects you have arthritis or a tear in the meniscus, they may recommend ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy to increase the strength of your thigh muscles. By maximizing strength and decreasing swelling, you can get back to a pain-free golf swing. However, if you have persistent pain and severe limitations in your activities, your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid injection or further intervention.

Golf is a great way to exercise and stay active for many people. Unfortunately, injuries can occur at any age or level of play. Be on the lookout for these common injuries and be sure to stretch and warm up your arm and leg muscles before you hit the course. If you have persistent pain from golfing, be sure to consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

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