If baseball is America’s pastime, then golf has been firmly cemented as the nation’s favorite activity.
According to the National Golf Foundation’s Golf Industry Report, the sport drove $84.1 billion in economic activity in 2016, which was followed by 32.1 million people playing at least one round in 2017. Golf’s popularity is alive and well. And with increased participation comes more injuries.
Golf is unique in that more people play as they get older. Without proper prevention, the push-pull motion of a swing can lead to numerous types of injuries. In any given season, 15 percent of people who golf on a regular basis get hurt and need time off.
To help remedy this issue, specialists from the Northwell Health Orthopaedic Institute will be available during the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black from May 16-19. You can also follow these suggestions to improve your swing, without injury.
Poor swing mechanics and overuse are the primary reasons people get injured playing golf. The explosive nature of a swing stresses your body, especially if you over-swing.
Injury can occur at any point. Your hands, upper extremities, elbow and shoulder endure the lion’s share of impact. But the most common injuries are lower back strains from repetitive swings and tendonitis in the upper extremities (shoulder, elbow and wrist). Elbow tendonitis can also result from playing with the wrong clubs or gripping them too tight.
Most people go from not practicing their swing during winter months to playing two, three even four rounds each week. Combine that with lugging a heavy golf bag in and out of the car, into the pro shop and across the course, and you go from 0-100 mph in just a few weeks, placing a tremendous amount of torque on the shoulders and lumbar spine.
Understanding the kinematics and biomechanics of a golf swing is the first step in preventing injury. A fair amount of research has evaluated the epidemiology of golf swings, each pointing to a primary way to avoid injury — always prepare yourself before hitting the greens.
A 10-minute warm-up is essential. Make sure you stretch. Visit the driving range where you can practice light swings (or indoor ranges during winter).
If you’ve been injured previously, work with a professional on your swing to avoid re-injury. Proper mechanics ensure a natural strike on the ball. Hitting the ground with the club head can cause a traumatic hand injury or tearing cartilage in your wrist.
You should also take your clubs out of the garage and have them tuned up. Let professionals examine them prior to playing your first round.
As with any sport, you should always listen to your body. Pain from any activity, including golf, is unnatural. Seek treatment if you have any pain. Don’t play through it or overdo it. You will only exacerbate the issue.
Also, don’t forget to apply sunblock if you plan to be out for a long period of time.
Randy Cohn, MD, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with a clinical focus on arthroscopic treatment of the knee, shoulder, hip, ankle and elbow. He is an assistant professor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the orthopaedic surgeon for Hofstra University and several Long Island high schools.