Golf Player Holding for Backs

The Dreaded Golf Injury: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, and Prevention

A golf injury is a serious and painful setback that can take you away from one of your favorite pastimes. The bad news is a golf injury can happen to just about any part of the body. The good news is they can be prevented with a good workout plan and stretch routine.

The key to golf injury prevention is staying in shape, improving your golf swing, and doing golf stretch exercises to keep your muscles flexible. We will cover all these points in this article in addition to talking about the causes and symptoms of many of the most common golf injuries. We’ll also talk about some treatment options for those who are already injured

Common Golf Injuries

The most common golf injury is usually in the wrists but shoulders, hips, and the back are also frequently subject to injury. This is usually due to overstrain or an incorrect swing. Let’s take a closer look at the kinds of injuries you should be aware of as a golfer:

Golf Player Leg Wrist Injury

Golf Wrist Injury

Wrists play a huge role in your swing and if you are a beginner or someone who doesn’t doo wrist strengthening exercises, your wrists will not be strong enough to handle the correct swing position.

If you are experiencing wrist pain, it is either because you are swinging right but your wrists aren’t strong enough or you are swing wrong and holding your wrists in a bad position. In either case, you want to both work on your swing and add wrist strength training to your workout.

Golf Shoulder Injury

There are many potential shoulder injuries in golf from rotator cuff injuries (see below) to joint pain and muscle tears. The shoulders move through their full range of movement during a golf swing so weak or tight shoulder muscles and joints are highly prone to strain and injury.

Stretching and strength training that targets the shoulders is essential to prevent injuries in this area.

Golf Back Injury

Maintaining the correct spine angle not only improves your golf swing, it also helps prevent injury. Upper back pain is usually related to the shoulders while lower back pain is often related to hip movements.

In both cases, strong back muscles help improve your swing, and prevent injuries in the back, hips, and shoulders.

Golf Hand Injury

Injuries in the hand (not the wrist) are usually either bone fractures or blood vessel damage. Fractures happen when the club strikes the ground which sends back pressure through the hand and can cause small, painful fractures (usually in the heel of the hand).

This same ground striking can also weaken the walls of the blood vessels in your hand causing swelling and even clotting which can lead to pain, numbness, and bruising. This is yet another reason to avoid hitting fat.

Two Old Men Practicing Golf

The best way to avoid these hand injuries is to take some time off from the game to work on your swing so that you aren’t smacking the clubhead into the ground as often.

Golf Elbow Injury

If the pain is on the inside of the elbow, it’s medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow). If the pain is on the outside of the elbow, it’s lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow). Both are kinds of tendonitis caused by overstrain.

To avoid serious damage, you need to be more aware of your elbows. Injuries in this area usually develop slowly and continue to worsen if you don’t catch it early. So if you notice pain continuing to increase in the elbow area with each swing or each game, take some time off and focus on stretching and resting your elbows.

Golfers are Prone to Elbow Injuries

Golf Forearm Injury

Pain in the forearms are usually caused by gripping the iron too hard (which makes your arm muscles too tense and rigid) or overstraining tight arm muscles. Forearm injuries are one of the top signs that you are not doing enough warm up and stretching before the game.

Golf Hip Injury

A golf swing is not all about the upper body, your hips are also essential. Hip injuries can be either in the muscles or the joints. It’s usually caused by golfing without warming up first and not stretching your hip area well.

Our hip area is often tight and weak because we rarely stretch or flex this area in daily movements so when it is suddenly forced to contort and flex during the golf swing, it is highly prone to injury.

Golf Knee Injury

Golf is a sport that is just hard on the knees. There’s no way around it. Injuries include tears in the ligaments that connect the bones in the joint; meniscal injuries which heal more slowly as a result of lower blood flow; and inflamed tendons from overstrain or improper use.

Golf Player Knee Injury

If you feel pain in the knees, make sure to add a lot of lower body strength training to your workouts.

Golf Thumb Injury

Thumb of your non-dominant hand in golf is very prone to injury since it has to extend and withstand more pressure than usual. If you are experiencing thumb pain in your left thumb (for left handers, your right thumb), it may be a fracture or inflamed tendons.

Let it rest until the pain subsides and then start doing hand stretches before and after you play.

Golf Ankle Injury

Sprained and otherwise injured ankles are not as common as other injuries in golf but they do happen. An injury to the ankle is most likely to occur during the downswing and follow through as this is when your body weight is shifting between your feet.

Lower body strength training will strengthen all the joints in your legs, including ankles which will keep them more stable during your swing and prevent injury.

Golf Groin Injury

Pain in the groin area can happen from the twisting of the torso during the swing. If you have pain here, it may be a sports hernia which is when the muscles in the abdominal walls weaken.

If you experience gradually worsening pain that is sharper during activity, this is likely a sports hernia. It can be avoided by abdominal strength training that doesn’t involve twisting (pushups, planks, etc).

Golf Hamstring Injury

When the muscles in the back of your upper thighs are too tight, they can become strained or torn during your golf swing. This is yet another reason it is so important to do warm ups before and stretches after a game of golf.

Man Holding for Hamstring

Golf Neck Injury

Your neck twists and rotates especially during putting which puts it at risk of injury if it’s not used to this movement. Pain can be in the form of torn muscles, pinched nerves, or knots.

In the case of knots, use a heat pack to relax the neck muscles and then gently massage to loosen the knots. For torn muscles, use an ice pack on the affected area 3-4 times daily for 3 days. If it is still painful after 3 days, see a doctor.

If you notice tingling or numbness in the neck, it’s likely a pinched nerve. In this case, just rest your neck for the next 1-2 days until the symptoms go away. If they don’t go away after 3 days, see a doctor.

Golf Rotator Cuff Injury

With a rotator cuff injury golf becomes impossible. The rotator cuff is the part where your arm meets your shoulder. It gives you a great range of motion but it also happens to be highly unstable as a result.

Because of its instability, it is easily injured and once injured, you will not be able to swing properly. The most common reason that it gets injured is that golfers aren’t really aware of it and don’t make any special effort to condition this area.

When we think of strength training or stretching, we focus on arms, hamstrings, and maybe our elbows and knees. We rarely think about rotator cuffs—until they get injured and knock us out of the game.

How to Stretch for Golf

Stretching is absolutely essential for any sport. You want to do it before and after a game but you also don’t want to stretch cold muscles (because then you might injure yourself just from the stretching).

Men Stretches Before Playing Golf

So, a good rule of thumb for stretching as a golfer is to do the following routine:

  1. Warm up for 10 minutes with low intensity exercise like jogging in place, jumping jacks, or doing some low speed practice golf swings. Do this until you feel your heart rate increase and your body temperature increase.
  2. Once your muscles are feeling warmer, set a timer and do some gentle stretching for 5 minutes. Use stretches from the outline below.
  3. Play golf. Make sure to practice good form and, if you are particularly worried about injury, do some light stretching while a partner or opponent is swinging.
  4. Stretch for 10 minutes after. Set a timer and do deeper stretches that you hold for longer periods of time. After a good game, your muscles should be warmest and most flexible so this is the ideal time to do some deep stretches that will help keep your muscles flexible and strong.

A lot of people (not just golfers) neglect stretching after they have done high activity. But this is the most important time to stretch. Exercise causes lactic acid to build up in your muscles (that’s where the burning comes from during exercise).

This build up leads to soreness and muscle fatigue. The high activity also tends to shorten and contract your muscles as they tense up in order to withstand the effort. So if you don’t stretch after, you aren’t releasing the lactic acid build up and you are allowing your muscles to cool into this contracted position which leads to tightness, soreness, decreased circulation, and injury.

So do not skip out on your post-game stretches!

Golf Stretch Outline

Here is a sample stretch routine that you can use. It’s designed for your 10 minute post-game stretch but if you want to use it before as well, go ahead and just half all the times or just do a lower intensity version of stretching.

You don’t want to overstretch while your muscles are still somewhat cool so your pre-game stretching needs to be less intense than your post-game stretch.

Two Men Stretching Before Playing Golf

  1. Knees to chest: while standing, raise one knee up toward your chest (as high as you can go). For balance, do this next to a table or tree. Grip your knee with the opposite hand and pull it up and in to your chest until you feel the stretch along the upper back of your thigh. Hold the position for 45 seconds on each leg.
  1. Toe touches: stand up straight with your feet about hip width apart. Reach down toward your toes. It’s ok if you can’t actually touch your toes. Do not bend your knees to try and reach your toes. Just bend down as much as you can while keeping those knees straight. Focus on relaxing your back and allowing gravity to pull your upper body further and further down. Hold this for 2 minutes.
  1. Hip rotations: raise one arm above your head, bend the elbow and let your upper arm drop behind your head. Grab your raised elbow with your other arm and pull gently to feel a stretch along the outside of your arm. While holding this, slowly lean back at your hips. Keep your neck straight and do this slowly so that you don’t overextend or fall over. Go back as far as you can to feel a stretch in your abdomen. Then lift back up and bend forward to feel a stretch in your spine. Do this for 45 seconds. Then switch arms and repeat for another 45 seconds.
  1. Arm stretch rotations: hold a golf club above your head with both arms. Let it fall back behind you a bit so that you feel the muscles along the inside of your arms stretching. Hold this position for 15 seconds. Then, while keeping your feet planted and toes forward, start rotating at the hips. Keep your neck straight but allow your shoulders and hips to bend gently but as far as possible. Rotate in slow movements for 2 minutes. If your arms get tired, break this up into two 1 minute sessions and do another stretch in between.

Stretch Arms Before Golf Session

  1. Side stretches: stand with legs hip width apart. Let your arms hang at your sides. Lift your left arm straight up so that your fingertips are pointing at the sky. Slowly bend to the right side without letting your body bend forward or backward. You should feel a stretch in your left side. Once you have gone as far over as you can, hold for 5 seconds then come back up and bend to the right side (with the left arm raised up). Repeat this for 1 minute.
  1. Backward arm pulls: reach your arms behind you and clasp your hands together. Pull your shoulders open and extend your hands as far behind as you can without bending your back. Let all the pull and stretch come from your arms and shoulders. Hold for 45 seconds.
  1. Shoulder roles: let your arms hang down at your sides. Pull your shoulders as far back and downward as you can. Then, slowly roll them up and toward the front. Imagine you are drawing circles with your shoulders. Continue to roll them in slow clockwise circles for 30 seconds. Then do 30 seconds of counterclockwise circles.

If you don’t like some of these stretches or you get a little bored of doing the same routine or you want to focus more attention on a specific problem area of yours, you can try mixing it up with other stretches. Just try to keep the routine balanced so that you get a full body stretch.

Player Stretching for Golf

Simple Golf Workouts

In general, golf injury statistics show that the overwhelming majority of injuries are caused by excess strain. This is either due to overuse even though the golfer is a professional or frequent player or it is due to a beginner or intermediate golfer pushing themselves too hard and overstraining their muscles.

In either case, this can be avoid by moderating your training and using cross training methods to build up strength and endurance between games. Whether it’s your profession or your hobby, a smart golfer has a good workout routine in place to keep them in shape.

Some great cross-training activities you can do include:

  • Jogging: this is best for building muscle in the legs and core which are necessary for stability, balance and rotation (in the hips). The cardio also improves circulation to the muscles which makes them less prone to injury.
  • Tennis: tennis involves similar twisting and arm movements as golf so it’s a good sport to keep your upper body in shape when you don’t have time to get out on the green.
  • Swimming: this is the perfect sport to strengthen every muscle without putting strain on your joints. If you’ve recently suffered an injury, swimming (or underwater running) is a great way to keep in shape without causing strain on your injury.
  • Yoga: this is good for not only strengthening muscles but improving their flexibility so that you are less likely to tear a muscle. It also strengthens the ligaments around joints to protect you from joint injuries. Plus, it’s great for posture, balance, and stability—all of which are essential foundations of a great golf swing.
  • Strength training: whether you use weights or stretch bands (see below) or just simple equipment-free bodyweight strength exercises, this is an important part of a golfer’s workout. That’s because, the fact is strong muscles are less likely to get injured than weak muscles. As a golfer, focus on exercises that strengthen wrists, elbows, and shoulders. These are often neglected in strength training routines.

Stretch Band Exercises for Golf

Stretch bands are a great way to condition and strengthen your muscles. They are extremely versatile and offer a great alternative to weight lifting and can keep you out of the gym altogether if that’s not your thing.

Another great advantage of stretch bands is that they allow you to strength train with minimal risk of injury. Lifting weights incorrectly can cause serious injury but stretch bands use resistance rather than weight so that you can only stretch the band to your maximum capacity.

Women Exercising with Stretch Band

This avoids overstraining yourself while allowing you to safely and naturally develop your muscles and increase your strength. Plus, a stretch band is light weight and easy to take with you anywhere. Keep one in your golf bag to do some basic workouts that keep your muscles warm between swings.

There are many great exercises you can do with stretch bands. We like this simple technique and these six stretch band exercises specifically suited to build the muscles that golfers use most.

By following a simple workout and stretch routine before, after, and between games, you can significantly decrease your chances of getting a golf injury. This will save you from having to take extended leaves of absence (which puts you at even greater risk of injury when you return) and keep you free of pain.

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