Since playing golf from the age of nine I have gradually come to the realisation that there is a greater risk of injury in golf than I initially was aware of. Lower back injuries are the most prevalent of all the golf injuries, followed by elbow and shoulder injuries. The main cause of lower back injuries in golf is that any reduction in hip rotation or thoracic (mid-back) rotation can cause the meat in the sandwich (lower back) to take the brunt of the rotational force during a golf swing. Most of the other injuries in golf are purely down to the repetitive nature of this sport, so injuries such as lateral epicondylitis (Golfers elbow) and shoulder rotator cuff injuries are mainly down to the fact that golf is a very repetitive and powerful activity and if there is any weakness or deterioration in a body part it will slowly get found out.
The common mistake in golfers is after they have noticed an injury due to pain or stiffness they then wait until the pain subsides and then go back to playing golf and doing the exact same thing that caused the problem in the first place, causing the injury to reoccur. This shows that golfers need to give their body more time to recover after an injury and then once the pain and symptoms subside they need to go into strength and flexibility training to address their weaknesses.
Ways to Help Prevent Golf Injuries
The simplest and most effective way to avoid golf injuries is making sure that you always do a warm-up before you start your round or practice. This is possibly the one thing that is missed by a vast amount of golfers and can make massive difference (reduce injury risk by 45x) not only to injury risk but also to a player shot distance, accuracy and all round play.
Flexibility is another important factor in preventing golf injuries because as I mentioned earlier in this blog, if your hip flexibility or mid-back flexibility is restricted then this can increase the rotation force going through your lower back and therefore increase your risk of injury. Lack of flexibility in other parts of your body such as shoulder, abdominals and chest can all have a massive effect on rate of injury because these muscles are very important in a golf swing and if they are tight they can alter your swing and this can cause injury. Improving flexibility can be done in two ways; stretching regularly and sports massage. Combining these two methods will massively improve your flexibility and lower your risk of injury and ultimately lower your handicap.
My final point about injury prevention in golf comes down to the speed in which players start their golf swing. When I say this I mean that when players get down to the course, not only do they omit a full warm-up, they start by swinging the club at full speed and expecting their body to adapt to these forces straight away. This is simply not possible for your body to do so a good tip would be to start with short irons swinging at around 70% and then work up to full swings with longer clubs, this enables you to make sure you are fully warm for when you head out onto the course or driving range.
Treating Golf Injuries
The first step to treating golf injuries involves stepping away from the activity that is creating your pain or that has brought on your injury (golf swing). Doing this enables your body to start the recovery process without any external factors inflaming the injury and therefore helping you return to golf sooner. The next step involves aiding your bodies recover through means such as ice, massage and resting the injured tissue which again all help speed up your recovery. During your recovery it is important that you keep your body as active as possible whilst keeping the injury rested, by doing this it helps your body stay fit and healthy so when you eventually return to sport your fitness levels will not have dropped. The final step to returning to golf involves addressing the weaknesses that caused the injury in the first place, whether that be technique (see a coach), strength (see a personal trainer that knows your goals), or flexibility (see a Massage Therapist that can prescribe massage, stretching and injury rehabilitation).