How to Prevent Common Golf Injuries and Protect Your Joints

Golf, despite its quite reputation, is a very physical sport. While Golf’s inherent dangers aren’t obvious, players are often injured or in pain. Most professionals exercise to remain conditioned for golf but even still the aggressive nature of a golf swing may place hefty stress on their body causing a majority of professional golfers to experience some sort of nagging injury. Here in the valley of the sun, we have prime golf weather and the courses are filled with all levels of experience. But you don’t have to be a professional to experience some of the most common golf injuries.  Recreational golfers experience the same injuries as professionals. 

Most injuries stem from some part of the swing which entails balancing a powerful forward motion, extreme muscle contractions, and the “long lever arm effect” created by the force of the golf club. Other injuries come can be a result of the repetitive nature of golf or from improper form. 

Some Common Golf Injuries Include: 

1. Golf Knee Injuries

Knee pain, especially in the lead knee, can occur from the strain placed on a weak knee to stabilize the rotation of the hip axis at the beginning of the swing. Extreme force placed on the knee can result in strained or torn ligaments and muscles. This stress can also cause existing arthritis to become increasingly painful due to the shearing force between the bones. 

Treatment of knee pain largely depends on the underlying condition. Most conditions are inflammatory and acutely respond to rest, ice, compression, and elevation ( RICE) along with over the counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. If the knee pain is recurrent or fails to improve a visit to the doctor is recommended.  Knee pain and injury can be prevented by stretching prior to playing, bracing, and proper form. Over the counter compression sleeves and hinged knee braces can be beneficial to help support the knee during 

2. Golf Hip Injuries

Although hip pain is a less common complaint, it can halt the power and fluidity of a swing. The hip is the body’s bridge to the legs making it integral in the stance, posture, weight shift, and creating torque. Pain in the hip can keep golfers from the course. Typically hip pain and injury arise from the repetition of golf where swinging puts excessive pressure on the hip and its supporting muscles especially if the players form is compromised. Chronic pain in the hip can arise from bursitis, tendonitis, muscle strain, and arthritis. More serious acute injuries include stress fractures, labral tear, hip impingement and loose body (bone or cartilage in the joint).  Like any golf injury playing with pain does not lead to positive outcomes. Evaluation by a professional is important along with rest and rehabilitation. These steps lead back to the course. 

3. Golf Wrist Injuries

The most common golf-related wrist injury is tendinitis or inflammation of the tendons responsible for wrist movement.  Golfers often injure their lead wrist because due to weakness or poor position. This leads to overload which causes pain and tenderness on the top of the wrist. Typically the wrist is painful at the top of the backswing and at impact. Adjusting your wrist angle can help prevent this. To prevent wrist tendinitis condition and strengthen your wrists and forearm. 

4. Golf Back Injuries

Golfers are at high risk for a back injury due to the rotational stress of the swing. It can place extensive pressure on the spine and muscles. This rotational irritation is compounded by the repetitive bending, often totaling 4-5 hours, per round. This scenario causes strained muscles, tendons, and discs which can lead to more serious conditions. In order to prevent back injuries in golf add in exercises that stretch and strengthen your back, including core workouts. 

5. Golf Shoulder Injuries

Swinging with a sore shoulder is not only detrimental to the game it can also cause significant injury.  Like with other injuries shoulder pain can come from a variety of sources including muscle, bone, cartilage, and most commonly tendon. The rotator cuff tendons often bear the brunt of an explosive golf swing. Treatment will depend on the type of underlying injury but as other injuries acute shoulder pain often responds to rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications. 

How To Prevent Golf Injuries

To prevent injuries, professional golfers follow structured conditioning programs as most professional athletes do. Although most recreational golfers cannot dedicate as much time as the professionals maintaining fitness is a keystone of a healthy and competitive golf game. Although most injury prevention focuses on the improvement of the swing there are other means to improve the game and avoid painful situations.

1. Warm-Up

Before hitting the course take a moderately paced 10-minute walk or find another means to increase heart rate and warm the muscles. After getting warm, stretch out your arms, wrists, hands, shoulders, spine, and pelvis. Also, swing the club a few times starting slowly and increasing your range of motion.  

2. Pace Yourself 

Although common, hitting the range to warm up though might not be the best option. If the body is not conditioned for the strain of repetitive swings the range may do more harm than good. Start slowly and work your way towards your goal. 

3. Build Muscle Strength and Endurance 

Strong muscles can help increase club speed and reduce injury rates while Regular aerobic activity can give you staying power on the course. Try walking, bicycling or swimming.

Creating a low maintenance year-round strength and aerobic training program is the best way to approach this goal. 

4. Regular Stretching

Focusing on flexibility and range of motion can lead to a more fluid golf swing and prevent high-velocity injuries. 

Safety on the Golf Course

  • Golfers who carry their own bags have a high rate of back and shoulder injuries, so be sure to use proper lifting technique by keeping your back straight and using your legs to lift the weight.  
  • Wear proper footwear that provides comfort and protection. Golf shoes with short cleats are recommended. 
  • Try to avoid striking the ground; elbow and wrist injuries are often a result of hitting the ground or the rough. 
  •  Limit sun exposure, especially in Arizona. Use sunscreen, wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection, and wear a hat or visor to shade your face. 
  • Drink plenty of water and watch for signs of dehydration and heatstroke. 
  • Keep your feet inside the cart to avoid broken ankles
  • Watch for storms 

Beyond basic fitness and precautions, players should work with a golf professional to learn proper swing techniques. Proper form reduces stress on the joints and spine while helping improve agility and flexibility whereas a poor swing increases the risk of injury.  Before taking the first swing, though a golfer should stretch and warm-up including walking prior to playing, walking the first fairway, and focused stretching prior to each round.