When the snow starts to melt it can only mean one thing to many Albertans – golf season has arrived. Stats Canada reports that more adult Canadians participate in golf than in any other sport.1 But, before you dust off the clubs and hit the links, take a second to think about injury prevention. After all, golf season only lasts for a few precious months, so you better make the most of it.
What could possibly go wrong?
When summer finally arrives, many golfers are so excited to get on the course that they fail to train or even warm-up before a game. While this enthusiasm is understandable, it predisposes golfers to injuries. Studies suggest that between 40 to 60% of golfers sustain a golf-related injury each year.3, 4 With approximately 25% of participants aged 65 and over3, many golfers have pre-existing conditions that predispose them to injury4, but injuries are seen among all golfers regardless of age or gender.3,4
The most common golf-related injuries are low back, shoulder, elbow or wrist injuries.3,4 Nearly all injuries relate to poor technique or faulty swing mechanics.3,4 Many of these injuries are caused by the unique twisting forces and combination of movements that a golf swing applies to the body and most fall into the category of overuse or repetitive strain injuries.4
3 tips to help make your next round injury free
Warm-up: Start with some general aerobic activity such as walking for 10 minutes, then hit a few balls at the practice range. On the practice tee, start with your short irons, then the long irons, the woods and finally your driver.4 Practice using gentle swings and focus on good technique. Warming up in this sequence lets your body get used to the combined movements of a golf swing before you add the resistance of a heavier golf club. If you have the opportunity, practice on natural turf. Since the natural golf swing involves some degree of contact between the club and the ground, practicing on artificial surfaces may increase stress to the wrists and elbows, leading to injury.
Stretch: As part of your warm-up, be sure to incorporate stretches for your upper body and back as well as wrists, shoulders and low back. Remember that stretching should not be painful. Focus on gradually increasing your range of movement and hold each stretch for 10 to 20 seconds without bouncing. Also, stretching your legs is never a bad idea, especially if you will be walking the golf course. If you walk while playing 18 holes of golf, you will travel approximately 5 km.4 That’s enough to help you meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults which recommend 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week.
Build up your endurance: When the sun is shining and the opportunity arises, you may just want to play those 18 holes whether you’re prepared or not. Acting on that impulse increases your chance of getting injured due to unfamiliar overuse of muscles and fatigue, which can lead to poor technique and injury. You will get more out of golf season if you gradually build up your time spent on the course.
How to prepare for next year in the off season
Rest: A 4 to 6 week break from golfing allows your body to recover from the last season and prepare for the next one.4 Alberta winters allow for a natural break from golf, however, if you travel to warm destinations during the winter months and make golfing part of those travels, you may want to schedule in a break from golf as part of your yearly travel plans.
Strengthening: A strengthening program for your core muscles and upper body will decrease your risk of injury and lead to better results on the golf course. Exercises should focus on the shoulders, wrists/forearms, back and core muscle strengthening. If you are unsure how to start, contact a physiotherapist for some recommendations.
Aerobic fitness: Working on your general physical fitness in the offseason will improve your cardiovascular strength and fitness and allow you to transition with greater ease. Good exercises for aerobic fitness include walking, jogging, swimming and cycling; anything that gets your pulse rate up. This too will help you meet the activity recommendations set out by the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults.
What to do if you are injured:
Given the physical benefits of golf, getting back on the course is important. Being able to enjoy the game pain-free and without injury are two goals that physiotherapists can help with. Staying on top of injuries and preventing new problems from becoming chronic will help you to enjoy the game for years to come. If you are injured, investing in rest and physiotherapy treatment will help. Consulting a professional golf instructor in conjunction with physiotherapy may also help you to modify your swing and be able to participate for years to come.3
Ifedi F. Sport Participation in Canada, 2005. Culture, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics Division. (2005) pg. 28. (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/81-595-m/2008060/s5-eng.htm
National Allied Golf Associations. Canadian Golf Consumer Behaviour Study. (2012, September 12). Retrieved from: http://www.pgaofcanada.com/Userfiles/File/Consumer%20Behaviour%20Study_draft%20(FINAL).pdf
Parziale, JR. Healthy swing: A golf rehabilitation model. American Journal of Physical Medicine Rehabilitation. (2002) 81 (7): 498-501.
Brandon B, Pearce PZ. Training to prevent golf injury. Current Sports Medicine Reports. (2009)8 (3): 142-146