Injuries can affect amateur and professional golfers, causing reduced performance or time away from playing and practising. The average amount of missed practice or competition is around 4.0–5.2 weeks (Murray et al., 2016). Therefore it is important to understand these injuries and what causes them in order to be able to treat and ultimately prevent them. This blog will discuss some of the most common injuries golfers may experience.
Lower back pain
One of the most common injuries golfers experience is lower back pain (Robinson et al., 2018). With the repetitive rotation of a golf swing and bent over stance players perform, the stress through the back is high. Torque (rotational force) created through the pelvis and lumbar spine can overload and strain muscles, ligaments and tendons of lower back. Although muscle and ligament injuries are most common, other injuries to the lower back include disc, degenerative arthritis and bone stress fractures. Back injuries are more common in amateur players then professionals and slightly more common in men than women (Batt,1992).
Golfers and Tennis Elbow
Another common injury in golfers is elbow tendinopathy. ‘Golfers elbow’ is also known as medial epicondylitis and is an overuse condition of the common flexor tendon situated on the medial aspect (inner side) of the elbow. ‘Tennis elbow’ a.k.a lateral epicondylitis affects the extensor tendons on the lateral side (outer side) of the elbow. Golfers can suffer from both these conditions, and more commonly tennis elbow! Due to the repetitive nature of swinging a golf club these tendons are put under stress and used repeatedly causing irritation and inflammation. It can also be due to faulty swinging technique and gripping too tightly.
Wrist pain is at high prevalence among golfers, especially those in their 30’s (Batt,1992). Injuries at the wrist include ligament sprains, tendonitis and possibility of fractures to the hamate bone (one of the carpal bones found in the hand and wrist). These tend to occur due to reduced range of motion and weakness at the wrist joint combined with the repeated, high speed swing placing stress through the wrist joint, and especially if players tend to over extend or cock their lead wrist.
Shoulder pain, most commonly rotator cuff injuries, is one of the top injuries for golfers. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that surrounds and supports the shoulder joint. During the back-swing and follow through of a golf swing these muscles are some of the most active in the upper body (McHardy et al., 2005). Rotator cuff injuries include tendinitis or tears and may involve the nearby bursa and can be caused by overload and repetitive movements or a poorly executed swing. Golfers with weak rotator cuff muscles and elderly players are more susceptible to rotator cuff injuries (Batt,1992). Shoulder impingement and damage to the acromioclavicular joint are also common.
Knee injuries, such as ligament strains and tears and meniscus (cartilage) tears are common injuries for golfers. Due to the twisting movement of a golf swing, rotational and compressive forces are placed on the knee joint. Most commonly the medial collateral ligament (found on the inner side of your knee) can be damaged. Osteoarthritis of the knee may also cause pain during a round of golf.
A D Murray, L Daines, D Archibald, R A Hawkes, C Schiphorst, P Kelly, L Grant, N Mutrie (2016) ‘The relationships between golf and health: a scoping review’,Br J Sports Med.10.1136(096625)
A McHardy, H Pollard (2005) ‘Muscle activity during the golf swing’, Br J Sports Med, 2005;39:799–804.(doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2005.020271).
M. E. Batt (1992) ‘A survey of golf injuries in amateur golfers’,BrJ Sp Med, 26(1)(63)
P Robinson, I Murray, A Duckworth, R Hawkes, D Glover, N Tilley, R Hillman, C Oliver, A Murray (2018) ‘Systematic review of musculoskeletal injuries in professional golfers’,Br J Sports Med,10.1136(099572 ).