How to Prepare for an Injury-Free Season
Golf enthusiasts are in their glory as golfing weather has returned to Wisconsin. Some players, however, may find themselves suffering game-limiting injuries if they haven’t prepared for the season properly. Dr. Ryan Wagner, an Orthopedic Physician specializing in Sports Medicine with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care, offers some important reminders as golfers prepare to hit the links.
“If golfers are only playing in those months when the weather is favorable in Wisconsin and are not exercising much in the off season, that can increase their risk for injury,” said Dr. Wagner. “Injury prevention is key to being successful in most sports.”
He offers these reminders as golfers hit the links.
“One of the important factors with golf is making sure the golfer does a proper warm-up and stretching routine prior to going out to play,” he said. “There is increased risk of injury going directly onto the course and starting to hit off the first tee without warming up. Stretching the hamstrings, calves, obliques, back, shoulders and wrists is important.”
In addition to stretching, there are other suggestions to follow.
“I recommend swinging the golf club a few times, gradually increasing the range, motion and swing speed instead of going to the first tee and swinging as hard as you can,” he explained. “Doing a few swings at the driving range as a warm up to get the blood flowing to the golfer’s muscles and extremities can also prove beneficial.”
Dr. Wagner noted that the most common body areas where golfers suffer injuries are the elbow, back and rotator cuff. Those areas are followed by injuries to the knee, wrist, foot, ankle, neck, hand and fingers, per Golf Fitness magazine.
“The majority of golf injuries are the result of overuse,” he noted. “We see a lot of repetitive use injuries here at ThedaCare Orthopedic Care, whether it’s playing golf, baseball or gymnastics. Repeating the same golf swing motion over and over places significant stresses on the same muscles, tendons and joints, which can lead to injury over time, especially if golfers are only playing during the short Wisconsin season.”
A common golf injury involves damage to the rotator cuff.
“The rotator cuff supports the position of the shoulder,” Dr. Wagner said. “It can become injured due to the repetitive nature of golf swings or by hitting the ground with the club, which can cause a sudden jar to that muscle area. Golfers may notice decreased motion or swing speed, which is a sign of a rotator cuff injury. Evaluation by a medical professional should be considered.”
Starting slow at the beginning of the golfing season is key.
“When you go to the golf course at the beginning of the season, start off slowly and increase the length of play and intensity over the course of the season,” he recommended. “Avoid trying to go 100% on the first time out; that can increase risk for injury as well.”
Seek Out Professional Instruction or Training
In the offseason, it’s important to focus on good aerobic conditioning, as well as core muscle strength to improve swing mechanics.
“There are a number of online exercise programs that can help golfers keep in shape during the off season,” he noted. “A good home exercise program that a golfer completes multiple days per week is a great off-season training regimen. When the season comes around, the golfer will already be in reasonably good shape, which will provide endurance to play longer and the capability to finish a round of golf at the optimal level.”
Back pain, another common ailment for golfers, is often caused by poor body mechanics during golf swings – which can be prevented through proper training and instruction.
“Swinging the golf club causes rotational stresses, and this can place significant torque on the spine, especially the muscles along the spine,” Dr. Wagner said. “Spending some time with a golf instructor or teaching professional to work on appropriate swing biomechanics can help prevent injury.”
Don’t Delay Treatment
Golfer’s elbow, officially known as medial epicondylitis, is one of the most common injuries.
“It is an inflammation of the tendons that attach at the inside bone of the elbow,” said Dr. Wagner. “Pain can occur while playing, and some golfers will keep playing through the pain. If a golfer is experiencing that kind of pain, it’s important to listen to his or her body, stop playing, ice and rest the tendons to prevent exacerbation of the injury. Playing through pain is not a wise choice. Rest your body and seek professional health care advice if the problem does not resolve after rest. Many golfers benefit from occupational or physical therapy to relieve golf injuries.”
“Playing through pain is not a wise choice. Rest your body and seek professional health care advice if the problem does not resolve after rest. Many golfers benefit from occupational or physical therapy to relieve golf injuries.”
Lighten the Load
Dr. Wagner said another opportunity for experiencing injury on the golf course occurs when carrying golf bags or lifting bags in/out of a cart.
“Sometimes golfers carry their own bags and that can cause shoulder or back injuries,” he said. “Other golfers ride in carts or push their carts. In each case, making sure to use appropriate body mechanics such as keeping a straight back as well as lifting with the knees can prevent injury. Golf bags are heavy and cumbersome, which can create unusual stresses on a golfer’s body.”
Keep an Eye on the Weather
Lastly, Dr. Wagner reminds golfers to wear appropriate-fitting golf shoes to support their ankles and backs, dress in layers for ever-changing weather conditions, wear a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses and drink plenty of water.
“I recommend golfers carry a water bottle at all times and hydrate regularly,” he said. “After playing in the sun for a few hours, golfers can develop heat stroke or become dehydrated. Drinking water regularly will help prevent those events from happening.”
Dr. Wagner wants everyone – from advanced golfers to beginners – to enjoy the game, and receive the benefits of physical activity.
“No need to be the best golfer on the course or in your group,” he said. “Playing golf is a great way for people of all ages to exercise and keep in shape. It’s also a great way to enjoy Wisconsin’s beautiful landscapes. Enjoy the season.”