Tag Archives: Golf injuries

Understanding and Avoiding Golf Injuries


This Straight, No Chaser post is about golf injuries.

golf injuries tiger
As we watch Tiger Woods’ body continuing to crumble before our eyes, it’s a good time to review golf injuries. Not just because of him but for the average weekend warrior (or hacker as the case may be). We’re in the middle of summer, which for many means a lot of golf.

They’re Getting Worse

You should be aware that golf-related injuries continue to be on the rise. I’m not talking about the struck by lightning, hit by a golf ball or club, driving your cart into the adjacent lake or being bit by a crocodile variety. I’m talking about overuse of specific parts of your body that are involved in the golf swing. 80% of golf-related injuries are reportedly due to such overuse considerations. It’s also estimated that 40% of amateurs and 60% of professionals will experience an injury related to such overuse. It should be intuitive and is certainly true that the risk for such injuries increase with age.


Types of Injuries

Here are the three most common sets of golf injuries in amateurs (professionals have slightly different injury patterns and frequencies). I’ll also address how they occur and what you can do to prevent them. Keep it in the short grass.

Lumbar Strain/Development of Low Back Pain: 

We spend so much time learning to extend the club, coil and uncoil while swinging a golf club about 100 MPH (some of us, myself included, at an ever faster rate; professionals average speeds of approximately 120 MPH). The very premise of doing this for three and a half to five and a half hours at a time (shame on you, slow golfers!) is not the most natural consideration based on our bodies’ design. Studies of professionals show that about 1/3 of them have experienced significant low back pain of at least two weeks’ duration. And they know what they’re doing!

  • What to do? This may be close to blasphemy to many golfers, but studies show that not carrying your golf bag (i.e. using a caddy or a golf cart) cuts the rate of golf injuries in half. That’s not saying don’t walk! Even the pros don’t carry their own bags. A second consideration (or perhaps it should be first) is learning proper technique. Additionally, flexibility training that increases the range of motion of the lumbar spine and extension and rotation of the lead hip (left hip in right-handed golfers) should decrease low back pain. Personally, I’ve had great success with golf-tailored stretching exercises and modified yoga techniques. Try it. The only thing you have to lose is the pain and maybe a few strokes.

golf balls can cause injury

Elbow Injuries – Medial and Lateral Epicondylitis

Consider these the plague of the hacker. Both conditions are inflammatory problems involving tendons of the elbow. Medial epicondylitis is known as ‘golfer’s elbow’, although it occurs in other sports such as bowling, lifting weights and sports involving throwing. It’s typically associated with those times that you (excuse me, your playing partners…) hit the ground before the hitting the ball, and you feel that shiver in your elbow. Lateral epicondylitis is known as ‘tennis elbow’, although golfers may be affected on the lateral side as well. This typically occurs when you over-involve your right hand in your swing; eventually the overuse will produce inflammation in that tendon. Similar conditions exist in the wrist as well.

  • What to do? Get better, for starters! Proper swing mechanics reduce the incidence of both golfer’s and tennis elbow. Additionally, good health (including an exercise regimen inclusive of strength training and stretching) and pre-round stretching maneuvers help to reduce the likelihood of these conditions presenting during your round. Additionally, if the situation becomes truly painful, typical treatments include recommendations to rest, use ice and anti-inflammatory medications, and to immobilize the involved area.

golfball in forehead

Shoulder Injuries

Failure to have proper mechanics also rears its ugly head and affects the lead shoulder in golfers. Strains, bursitis, tendonitis and eventually arthritis are all frequently seen problems in golfers.

  • What to do? Again, it’s about prevention, strengthening and stretching the muscles and tendons in and around your rotator cuff and developing good technique that reduces undue strain on your areas being called into action during the swing.

If I had one tip to give you, I’d recommend that you always take at least 10 minutes before your round to stretch. Doing so will reduce your injury risk by half. Yet, only 10-20% of golfers actually consistently do this. Jumping from a cramped car to swinging a golf club 100 MPH is a formula for disaster.


My Advice

If I had one piece of advice to give you, it’s simply to discover an exercise regimen that includes strengthening (muscles and core), flexibility and cardiovascular considerations. Obviously, the second would be to get lessons, which by itself will improve your risk profile.

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Straight, No Chaser: The Week in Review and Your Quick Tips

Another week of knowledge and good health has come and gone at Straight, No Chaser.  Here’s your Week in Review.  Click on any of the underlined topics for links to the original posts.
On Sunday, we started the week reviewing rashes found on the palms and soles.  The entire post was meant to raise awareness that secondary syphilis presents like this, which is an important consideration given how easily primary syphilis can be missed, how devastating tertiary syphilis is and how simple treatment is once diagnosed.  Get it checked, and get it treated.  Sunday also brought a tear jerker of a topic in reviewing the physical signs of child abuse.  We often say knowledge is power, but in this example, knowledge could mean continued life for a victim.  Review those patterns of symptoms, and commit to being involved when needed.
On Monday, we reviewed lactose intolerance, which we tend to think is funny in theory but never is if you’re the one affected.  Remember it’s not the dairy that’s important to your health but the calcium it provides.  There are alternatives.  We also provided Quick Tips for the newborn in your family.  It’s never a bad thing to have a newborn evaluated, but don’t be distraught if the answer to your questions involve a lot of reassurance.  Remember, lots of answers to your questions involve things that happen underneath the diaper.
On Tuesday, we reviewed rabies.  We all knew there was a reason we didn’t like bats, skunks and raccoons, but if you live in the wrong area, your household cat or dog could be just as deadly if they aren’t completely immunized against rabies.  We also looked at injuries that occur from playing golf.  Who’d have thought five hours of swinging a club 100 MPH could cause back problems?  It’s such a peaceful game!
On Wednesday, we discussed ulcers.  Amazingly, peptic ulcer disease is most commonly traceable to a bacterial infection.  This is another condition where smoking and drinking (and overuse of pain medications) will come back to haunt you.  Wednesday also brought a review of allergic reactions and the potential life-threatening nature of them.  Because of this fact, it’s just not a good idea to wait around for things to get better on their own.
On Thursday, we discussed antioxidants and free radicals, which surprised a lot of you.  Although you seemingly can’t go wrong with antioxidants you eat, taking all those expensive supplements has been shown not to provide the same level of benefit and may in fact be harmful.  We also reviewed grief and bereavement.  I hope many of you learned that your suffering and responses are not only normal, but they’re universal.
On Friday, we provided an update on CPR and gave you another reason to remember the BeeGees.  Layperson and bystander CPR has been made so easy that you just have to take the two minutes to learn what to do.  We also reviewed cocaine myths and truths, which is important because cocaine often leads to the need for CPR.  I think I scared some people off with the image of big needles to treat their cocaine erections… Oh well!
On Saturday, we discussed drowning.  Keep your infants at arm’s length, and remember to bring a few life-savers (preservers, ropes, etc.) when you plan on being especially adventurous in the water.  We wrapped the week up discussing bedwetting, which often resolves on its own but sometimes is a symptom of another medical condition.
Thanks for your support and continued feedback.  If you have topics you’d like to see discussed, please feel free to send me an email or comment.
Jeffrey E. Sterling, MD