As the weather continues to warm and the grass greens, many of us will be hitting the links this summer and fall in search of those birdies and pars. Montana has a plethora of great golf courses to explore but injuries can prevent us from enjoying the sport we love. With a relatively short golf season in Montana, many of us tend to try and squeeze in as many rounds as possible before the leaves turn and the snow begins to fall. Overuse injuries often result from playing many rounds of golf through the summer but with proper pre-season preparation and in-season maintenance training, many of these injuries can be avoided.
The golf swing can sometimes be a complex and frustrating task with many moving parts and intricacies. With so many components going into the golf swing, it is easy to have muscle strains and joint pain with so many repetitions. Common injuries for golfers include, but are not limited to:
- Golfers Elbow or Medial Epicondylitis (Medial Elbow Pain)
- Low Back Pain
- Wrist Sprain
- Shoulder Pain
These injuries can all be caused by overuse and excessive swinging, but can also be the result of poor swing mechanics, direct trauma from the club hitting the ground (“catching one a little heavy”), and pre-existing injuries. Pacing how much you play along with appropriate strengthening and flexibility exercises are crucial in prevention of these injuries.
Medial Epicondylitis: Commonly known as golfers elbow is elbow soreness and inflammation of the tendons on the inside or medial aspect of the elbow frequently caused by repetitive swinging. Slowing your golf swing and pacing how often you play are the keys to preventing this injury along with these wrist and arm exercises for both arms:
- Forward and Reverse Wrist Curls: Using a light dumbbell or resistance band, first complete forward curls with palm up and forearm resting on your thigh or a table. After the first set, turn the palm down and complete a reverse wrist curl. Alternate between the two exercises for 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions, 1-2 times per day.
- Biceps Curls: Use light to moderate resistance dumbbells or exercise bands with palm facing up. 2-3 sets, 10-15 reps, 1-2 times per day.
- Grip strengthening: Squeezing a stress ball, tennis ball, or racquetball will help to improve your grip and forearm strength. Squeeze intermittently for 3-5 minutes 2-3 times per day.
Low Back Pain/Back Pain: Low back pain and muscle strains are quite common with golfing due to the rotational movements and flexing forward and extending backward all taking place during the swing. Developing and maintaining lower abdominal and core strength along with hip and lower extremity flexibility are important in preventing a low back injury both on the golf course and with day to day activities. Exercises to focus on include:
- Hamstring Stretching: Complete the stretching either standing, sitting, or lying on your back and holding the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times, 2-3 times per day. Stretches should remain static with no bouncing during the stretch and not be painful.
- Planks: Start in a modified push up position with your elbows and forearms flat on the floor and legs off the floor on your tip toes. Keeping your back flat and abdominals tight, hold this position for 10-20 seconds, while continuing to breathe. Repeat this exercise 5-10 repetitions, 1-2 sets, 1-2 times per day. Increase the duration of the hold as you are able without causing any back pain.
- Rows: Hold each end of a light resistance band looped around a door knob or post and pull both arms backward at chest height, bending your elbows as if you were rowing a boat. Think about squeezing your shoulder blades together at the back position and complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions, 1-2 times per day. *An alternative to a band would be a bent over rowing motion with a moderate weighted dumbbell, as if you were starting a lawnmower*
- Double and Single Leg Bridging: Lying on your back with both feet flat on the ground and knees bent to 90 degrees, keep your stomach/abdominals tight and push your buttocks off the ground approximately 8-12 inches. Hold this position for 2-5 seconds and then return back to the ground. Progress the intensity of this exercise by completing the bridge with just one leg while holding the opposite leg straight off the ground. Complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions, 1-2 times per day.
Shoulder Pain: Another common area to experience pain with golfing is in the shoulder joint. Shoulder pain can be related to poor swing mechanics, repetitive overuse from swinging or from muscle imbalance or weakness around the shoulder joint. With a handful of shoulder and rotator cuff strengthening exercises, your shoulder can be more durable and allow you to continue to play through the summer.
- Bilateral External Rotation: Using a medium resistance band, hold both elbows bent at 90 degrees and next to your body against your ribs. Hold the band at shoulder width and rotate your elbows externally or outward approximately 45 degrees. Focus on keeping the elbows bent throughout the motion and thinking about squeezing or pinching your shoulder blades together. Complete 2-3 sets, 10-15 repetitions.
- Bilateral Horizontal Abduction: Again using a medium resistance band, hold the band at shoulder height with arms straight and shoulder width apart. Pull the band apart keeping the arms straight until the band comes in contact with your chest. Return to the starting position and complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
- Resisted Shoulder Lifts (Scaption): Using a light to medium weight dumbbell (3-5 lbs.), raise both arms out straight away from your body at a 45 degree angle to shoulder height. Complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions and only advance your weight if you are able to complete all sets and reps without any shoulder pain.
You might also want to check out our previous blog post, Rotator Cuff (RTC) Strengthening & Cool Down.
Warm-Up: Prior to starting your round of golf it is also important to develop a short warm-up routine to help prevent injuries. Your warm-up can be short (1-2 minutes) and should take place even before hitting balls on the driving range. Remember, Warm up to swing, don’t swing to warm up. Some easy warm-up exercises for 10-20 repetitions each include:
- Shoulder flexion lifts and shoulder extensions
- Shoulder circles and Abduction lifts
- Standing shoulder external and internal rotations at shoulder height
- Trunk rotations and lateral bending using a golf club
- Standing bent over hamstring stretch (bend down and touch your toes) holding the stretch for 20-30 seconds
If you do begin to experience any pain while completing any of the outlined exercises, back off your intensity to avoid that elevated pain. If pain continues to persist after decreasing your resistance or motion with the exercise, discontinue the activity. In the unfortunate event that you are kept in the clubhouse and not on the links by an injury, feel free to contact Northern Rockies Physical Therapy and schedule a visit to let our team of Physical Therapists evaluate your injury and Get You Back Out There!