Preventing golfer’s elbow and other injuries to the back, knees and shoulders

Jeffrey S. Stephenson, M.D., sports health physician with Norton Orthopedic Specialists, discusses preventing common golf injuries.

Jeffrey S. Stephenson, M.D., sports health physician with Norton Orthopedic Specialists, discusses the most common golf-related injuries and steps you can take to play pain-free this season. You might be surprised to learn that most injuries are caused by an improper swing.

Lower back injuries

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The most common golf-related injuries involve the lower back. The back is more engaged in the game than you might think. It comes into play during the rotation in your golf swing.

The transition when you take your arms back to swing through — your power from your upper body — is linked to your lower body through the core musculature,” Dr. Stephenson said.

Injury prevention measures

Your core and lower back work together to help you power through your swing. That’s why it’s important to build the foundation for a strong core.

“You can’t have a weak lower back and expect to be able to play golf on a regular basis,” Dr. Stephenson said.

He suggests a regimen of isometric exercises to help strengthen the back, such as low back extensions and crunches. An active warm-up ahead of your round of golf also is very important.

Golfer’s elbow

“There are a lot of gripping mechanics that have to happen to be able to get a golf club through the ball and hit a ball consistently well, which can cause elbow injuries,” Dr. Stephenson said.

“Golfer’s elbow” is a common overuse injury to the soft tissue in the tendon or the medial elbow. This injury can happen with repetitive swinging of the golf club.

Injury prevention measures

Stretch the affected tendons through simple wrist stretching exercises, and make sure you are swinging properly.

“If you are concerned that you are having consistent pain with your swing, it may be worthwhile to have your swing checked out by a golf professional,” Dr. Stephenson said. “If there are certain mechanical issues with your swing, it makes you more susceptible to injury.”

Hitting the club into the ground, which can put strain on the tendons, causes many elbow injuries.

Shoulder injuries

Your golf swing could cause strains, pain and inflammation in your shoulder. The most common shoulder injury is rotator cuff impingement, which is inflammation around the rotator cuff tendons. Muscles and tendons that help stabilize the ball and socket joint of the shoulder make up the rotator cuff.

“You can get inflammation around those tendons, which causes an impingement and can be painful,” Dr. Stephenson said.

Injury prevention measure

The best way to prevent a golf-related shoulder injury is to establish a good warm-up routine.

“Take the time to carefully swing through the club, rather than stepping right onto the course to begin your round,” Dr. Stephenson said.

Knee injuries

Golfing and walking along uneven surfaces on a golf course can pose a hazard to knees.

“Those potential hazards are the twisting and turning that can lead to meniscus tears in the knee,” Dr. Stephenson said.

Injury prevention measures

Be mindful of where you are stepping on the course and make sure you have good swing mechanics in place. If you’re not sure about your swing, enlist the help of a golf professional to help you perfect your swing.


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