After what seems like eons, the spring weather has finally arrived and golf lovers are doing the happy dance back to the links!
Golf is definitely one of the activities that fits into what we discussed a few weeks ago regarding the risk of injury as people are transitioning into new activities as the season changes.
With this transition back into swinging the clubs regularly, I often see golfers in my office suffering with a few aches and pains brought on by their springtime golf enthusiasm.
Playing golf involves putting your body into some twisted postures with a significant amount of torque in the swing. These movements can lead to injury and pain if done incorrectly or without warming up.
The most common golf injuries involve the low back, the wrist elbow and shoulder of the leading hand (more commonly the left hand) and the opposite elbow (most commonly the right).
These injuries are most likely to appear at the beginning of the season when hibernating golfers are super excited to get out on the course.
Here are some tips to keep you safe and free from injuries and aches and pains as you head out to play golf:
1) Get the Right Fit:
Make sure that your golf clubs are fitted to your height and strength to lessen your chance of injury and also to improve your game.
The standard, off-the-shelf club is made for a 5’10” male so if you are much shorter or taller than that, you may have to find a different set of clubs.
The material that the shaft of a golf club is made from can vary as well. You’ll find that you have a choice between steel or graphite. There are lots of pros and cons to both that may have an effect on your game but in terms of preventing injury, the best choice is usually to go with the lighter graphite. This will decrease forces through the body with each swing and lessen chance of injury.
As well as being lighter the graphite material offers another advantage in terms of preventing injuries. It will transmit less vibration up the shaft of the club into your hands and arms which is especially relevant to beginners who may have a tendency to hit the ground occasionally 🙂
The best way to make sure that your golf clubs are the right material for you and are fitted appropriately to your body is to talk to a golf pro or go to a golf specialty store.
2) Take Lessons:
When you are just learning to play golf or when you are coming back to it after some time off, it is worth it to work with a professional to give you some biomechanical tips that will not only decrease your chance of injury but will help your game as well.
3) Warm Up and Cool Down:
Many people don’t consider golf active enough to warrant a warm up. Not warming up is a big reason why people get injured. We have discussed this in detail in a previous post about preventing injuries.
Remember that especially as you get older, the soft and connective tissues around your joints are not as flexible or as pliable and they need proper warming up before you stretch them in order to avoid injury.
Do a 5-10 minute walk to get blood circulating and your body warm. Then once your body is warm do some gentle stretches to loosen up any tight spots.
It’s also a good idea to do some stretching between holes and definitely as you get to the ‘19th’ hole make sure to stretch out any tight muscles.
4) Push, Don’t Carry your Golf Bag:
It’s great exercise to get out and walk to the course, so if your course allows, you should definitely take the heel-toe express instead of a cart. 🙂
However, when walking you may be susceptible to injury if you are carrying your bag over one shoulder. If you choose to carry your golf bag, make sure that you have a backpack style bag so the force can be evenly distributed over both shoulders. Otherwise, you should push or pull your golf clubs using a wheel cart.
5) Choose the Right Shoes:
Wear a good shoe with lots of support and the right fit to keep your feet, knees and hips happy on the course! A few months ago we talked about choosing running shoes. Remember that it’s important to change your shoes regularly. If you have new aches and pains that have come up, check to see how old your shoes are. Shoes should be changed every 500 miles or 800 km. For a frequent golfer who walks the course this could be every year!
6) Drink Lots of Water:
Making sure to drink lots of water as you head around the course will prevent dehydration and fatigue, both of which can make you more susceptible to injury.
Many golfers like to enjoy an ‘adult beverage’ while they golf. This can lead to dehydration as well as increase symptoms of muscle stiffness and soreness. As a result, if you are enjoying a cocktail while golfing, make sure to have some water too!
Happy golfing this spring! Get into the Game Without the Pain!
Dr. Peggy Malone is a Chiropractor and an Athlete who helps other athletes to overcome injury and get back to their sport. She also inspires patients from all walks of life to take control of their health to be as happy and as healthy as they can be.
A former varsity Basketball and Rugby player, she has since entered the world of endurance athletics where she has completed 2 Ironman Triathlons, 3 Marathons, several Half Marathons and many other Triathlons, Road Races and Off-Road Adventure races of varying distances.
Her own athletic endeavors and injuries have given her valuable insight into working with athletes in her practice for both the care of injuries as well as for the improvement of athletic performance.
Hey Peggy, I have to say golf is one of my least inspiring sports, but I realise those that love it – love it! When I do a turn around I'll remember your great tips!
Great Fay! I’m still learning to love it myself but I totally appreciate what it takes to play golf well 🙂