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Common Golf Injuries and How to Avoid Them

A Look at the Game’s Musculoskeletal Vulnerabilities Along with Steps to Remain Healthy

May 2024

Golf provides some of us with moments of joy when hitting a great drive, sinking a long putt, or chipping in for a birdie. These emotional highs are mixed with crushing moments of frustration when other shots don’t meet our expectations.

We can even find great satisfaction from one great shot. Regardless of our scores, we push forward and embrace a lifetime of practice and fine-tuning that the game requires.

That is, until we suffer a golf injury.

Golf seems, on the surface, to be a gentle sport. But it can be easy to get hurt without good flexibility, strength, and proper technique.

We’ll look at common golf injuries and how to avoid them.

A man finishes his golf swing while his playing companion watches

Common Golf Injuries

Many golf injuries can be traced back to an aspect of the swing, which involves balancing an explosive forward motion, violent muscle contractions, and the long lever arm effect created by the force of the golf club. Most golf injuries happen repetitively, over time, from taking many swings with incorrect form.

Common golf injuries include:

We’ll look at each of these injuries in turn.

Back Injuries and Strains

During a round, a golfer spends shot after shot in a bent position while applying pressure to the spine and back muscles. This can strain muscles and result in pain. Lower lumbar spine injuries and disc herniation can also occur – or if these injuries pre-exist, they can be aggravated by golf swings.

Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer’s Elbow is caused by the excessive force used to bend the wrist toward the palm when swinging a golf club. It results in pain, soreness, and inflammation on the inner part of the elbow. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist toward the palm. Tendons are tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones.

Tennis Elbow

While golfers don’t carry a tennis racket in their golf bags, they can also be susceptible to tennis elbow. Tennis elbow involves inflammation in the outer tendons of the elbow. Golfers will feel pain from this condition along the outside of the elbow when extending their arms during a golf swing.

Rotator Cuff Injuries or Shoulder Pain

Have you ever taken a shot off the fairway and hit a rock or a root during your swing? The force of that unexpected impact can cause a rotator cuff injury or pain in the shoulder. Improper swing technique can also lead to tendinitis, bursitis, shoulder separation, and shoulder impingement syndrome from repetitive swinging movements.

Hip Injuries

Most of the power in a golf swing comes from movement and rotation in the hips. Lack of hip flexibility can cause hip problems and lower back issues. One common hip injury and pain source for golfers is trochanteric bursitis, where the bursa on the outer part of the hip joint inflames and swells.

Knee Injuries

If a knee has weak muscles, the strain on it to stabilize the hip rotation at the beginning of the swing can cause severe knee pain. Extreme force applied to the knee can cause torn or sprained ligaments and kneecap injuries.

Partial meniscus tears in the knee can also be present without symptoms. A golf swing can further aggravate that existing tear to the point where pain and inflammation suddenly become apparent.

General Golf Injury Prevention

Maintaining fitness is an integral part of a healthy and competitive golf game. Those golfers who tend to stay healthy follow structured fitness and exercise programs outside of their time on the course.

If you live a sedentary lifestyle between your golf rounds, you are more likely to suffer injury when you do play.

Beyond being fit, the following recommendations are a good starting point for general golf injury prevention:

  • Work with a golf professional to learn proper swing techniques. Good form and proper mechanics will reduce stress on the body and help improve flexibility and agility.
  • Warm up and take practice swings before a round. Stretch and hit a few balls on the range to prepare your joints and muscles for play.
  • Build up your tolerance for golf movements. Don’t overdo it with too many shots in a day or over a period of days without preparing your body for it.

If You Do Get Injured

If you do experience musculoskeletal pain during golf that continues after the round, see a doctor before getting out on the course again. You may be surprised by what can be done with proper diagnosis to get you back out again playing golf pain-free.

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