Spring has sprung, which means many patients are out on the golf course swinging their way to ecstasy. Most people might think that playing golf is a low-level activity without much risk for injury. After all, it’s not a contact sport, and most of the time is spent walking on meticulously manicured grass. Au contraire, many injuries can be caused by playing golf, including harm to the ankle, elbow, shoulder, spine, knee, hip, back, and wrist. We’re sure you’ve seen your share. Here’s a quick review of the most common-and not so common-types of golfing injuries you may be treating for those weekend warriors who gingerly walk into your office seeking your help.
As a result of the powerful rotation and extension motion inherent in a good golf swing, injuries to the lumbar spine can often occur. In fact, lower back pain is the most common injury sustained by amateur golfers. It is often caused by a poor swing.
The second most commonly injured area in golfers is the elbow. Again, poor swing mechanics is the usual culprit. Medial epicondylitis, also known as golfers elbow, can be caused by hitting shots “fat” (that is, hitting the ground first), and lateral epicondylitis may be caused by over-swinging.
The majority of golf injures to the wrist flexor and extensor tendons are due to overuse that can cause tendonitis of any of the tendons in the wrist. Additionally, hamulus (or hook of the hamate) fractures are a distinctive golf injury that causes discomfort in the heel of the pinky finger side of the palm. The hamulus is vulnerable to injury from the club during a hard hit to the ground when the handle crosses right over the bony hook while gripping the club.
Impingement syndrome, rotator cuff problems, and arthritis are the most common shoulder ailments. These occur most frequently in the lead arm. These types of injuries are due to the stress put on specific muscles in the shoulder that are most prone to injury (because they are the most active in a golf swing): the subscapularis, pectoralis, and latissimus muscles.
Golf cart accidents
Falling out of the cart or being caught inside a cart that tips over have the potential of causing very serious injuries. Also, you may want to remind your patients who play golf that they should keep their feet inside the golf cart. Players have broken ankles when their feet have gotten caught under moving golf carts or when their feet hit the ground as the cart is moving.
Just being human
Golfers are not always aware of their environment and other players on the course. Unusual injures associated with golfing include harm sustained by golfing partners who get struck by another player’s errant backswing. Golf clubs thrown in anger or disgust can often injure their owners or others in proximity. Last, but not least, it’s also possible to sustain a soft-tissue injury by being hit by a golf ball.
It may be obvious, but warming up properly and stretching prior to hitting the links are important to help reduce the odds of injury. In addition, many of the problems caused by golfing can be improved by using good swing mechanics. Instruction by a golf pro to improve technique is one of the best ways to lower the chances of being injured.
So, as the amateur golf season is now here, some of your patients will swing away…at their own risk!
- Golf injuries. Sportsmed Web site. 2008. http://www.sportsmed.org/uploadedFiles/Content/Patient/Sports_Tips/ST%20Golf%20Injuries%2008.pdf.
- Golf injuries to the hand, wrist or elbow. American Society for Surgery of the Hand Web site. 2007. http://www.assh.org/Public/HandConditions/Pages/Golf.aspx.
- Golf injury prevention. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Web site. Reviewed August 2011. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00137.
- Kelley B. Most common golf injuries. About.com. http://golf.about.com/od/fitnesshealth/tp/commoninjuries.htm.