Preventing Golf Injuries
In Alberta, golfing season is already short enough without an injury shortening it even further. Golf is popular throughout Alberta, with one of the highest per capita participation rates in the entire world. Unfortunately, research has shown that golf injuries happen surprisingly often. 70 percent of players will suffer a golf-related injury at some point in their golf careers.
While most golf injuries are fairly minor, about half of all golf injuries can become chronic, meaning they drag on and may never fully go away.
The best way to avoid the whole mess of an injury is to prevent one from happening. Find out how you can prevent golfing-related injuries and stay in the game this summer.
How to Prevent Golf Injuries
- Improve cardio endurance – Walking a golf course is about the same as doing a 10-kilometer hike/walk and requires excellent cardiovascular fitness, especially if you are carrying your clubs. You can improve your endurance by going on a good-sized walk three or four times per week and slowly increasing the distance and intensity over time. When possible, walk the course instead of using a golf cart – it’s a great way to get exercise.
- Warm-up – Most golf injuries are the result of overuse, so players should gradually build up swing intensity leading up the season. When hitting balls, start with a small bucket and use only easy swings with a short club such as an 8 or 9 iron. Rotation exercises for hips, trunk and shoulders can be a helpful part of your warm-up. See below for a quick and thorough golf warm-up.
- Correct your swing – The golf swing is a unique and complex movement that challenges the lower back and lead arm and involves powerful muscle contractions. Your swing should be a relaxed, fluid motion. Muscle strength and range of joint motion are required from all parts of the body.
- Get the proper equipment – Make sure your golf clubs are properly matched to your size. A poor club fit makes it more difficult to swing efficiently and increases the risk of injury. Consult an expert on what is the best size for you. Also, hitting off of artificial surfaces such as driving range mats can contribute to upper limb stress, as players typically contact the turf before, during and after ball impact. The repetitive and excessive stress can cause wrist, elbow and shoulder pain.
Get help if you are injured
If you have a pre-existing injury that is aggravated by playing golf, visiting a physiotherapist can help you understand how golf affects the body and can also provide treatment and adaptations that will help you continue to play golf.
If you are injured while playing golf, seeing a physiotherapist or doctor as soon as possible would be best to help you get back to your game. A doctor’s referral is not needed to see a physiotherapist. To find a physiotherapist near you, visit www.physiotherapyalberta.ca/findaPT.
The best way to treat an injury is to ensure one doesn’t happen. Be sure to warm-up every time you play to avoid injuries. An ideal golf warm-up should take 10 to 20 minutes.
- General body warm-up - Begin with a low intensity activity that uses as many large muscle groups as possible. Working muscles produce heat that is transported by the blood vessels to the rest of the body, raising your temperature. Start warming up by parking at the far end of the lot when you arrive at the course. The longer walk to the clubhouse will help.
- Stretching - Next, stretch key muscles used in the golf swing. Concentrate on the back, hip, neck, shoulders and forearm muscles. Gently hold each stretch for 10 to 20 seconds. You should not feel pain.
- Golf-specific drills - Now, gently swing a short iron back and forth. Gradually increase the tempo until your muscles feel loose. Add more resistance by gently swinging two clubs at once. Warm-up swings should be done with both the left and right handed for the best muscle balance and coordination.
- Practice - If a driving range or hitting area is available, take time for a few practice shots. This further warms the golf muscles and improves timing and consistency. To start, use a short club such as a wedge to hit only 20-yard shots. Gradually build up to longer shots and longer clubs.