Dr. John Noble Jr., Orthopaedic Surgeon
Warm weather means golfing weather to millions of people in the country. Golf has become one of the most popular sports in the country, but most amateur golfers know relatively little about preventing golfing-related injuries.
Before you hit the links, you might want to hit the gym. Research suggests that strong hip muscles can make a big difference in your golf performance.
A recent study presented by the American College of Sports Medicine found that golfers with strong hip muscles have lower handicaps and longer driving distances than those with weak hip muscles. This research demonstrates the importance of hip muscle strength in stabilizing the trunk and balancing forces from the lower parts of the body to the arms during a golf swing to improve overall performance. It was found all the hip movements tended to be stronger in the best golfers who had the lowest handicaps and longest driving distances. Hip muscles play an important role in balancing the forces transferred between the lower body and upper extremities during the golf swing. Stronger hip muscles may provide better trunk stability that may in turn be related to better golf performance.
The hip is not the only part of your body that can impact your golf game. An overall strength and conditioning program is an important part of preventing musculoskeletal injuries. The idea that golf is an injury-free sport is a misconception. As with any sport, injuries can occur in golfing if your body is not ready to take on the stress of a repeated movement. For those of you who golf on a regular basis, you know how important it is to be mentally prepared to hit a golf ball. It is also important to be physically ready to hit the ball. Proper warm-up, flexibility and swing mechanics not only help your game, but will also help you to avoid putting your clubs away in early summer due to a golf injury.
Overuse injuries are the primary source of problems for golfers. These types of injuries occur more frequently in those individuals lacking adequate flexibility and strength of the stomach, shoulder and elbow muscles. They occur when the forces of an activity exceed the muscle's ability to absorb the force. When this occurs, it is the tendon that is overstressed.
Leading the list of common golf injuries is golfer's elbow. Golfer's elbow occurs in the dominant arm as the club head strikes the ball or ground. One of the best ways to avoid elbow problems is to strengthen the forearm muscles and slow the swing so that there will be less shock in the arm when the ball is hit by the golfer.
Many golfers also suffer from impingement syndrome of the shoulder. This condition is an inflammation of the shoulder's rotator cuff tendons caused from the "pinching" of the tendons between the bones of the shoulder. For golfers, this most often occurs in the front region of the arm and is felt at the finish of the swing. Strong rotator cuff muscles are the best way to prevent this from happening.
Low back pain is a very common complaint among golfers. This can be caused by a poor swing. The rotational stresses of the golf swing can place considerable pressure on the spine and muscles. Also, poor flexibility and muscle strength can cause minor strains in the back that can become severe injuries. Fortunately, back injuries in golfers are generally only strained muscles, but in more severe cases, the lumbar disc can become irritated or rupture.
To prevent these types of injuries, special emphasis should be placed on core strength in the back, torso, hips and shoulders. One way to begin such a conditioning routine is to add push-ups and crunches to your training. A well-rounded strength, flexibility and endurance program three times per week will help overall body conditioning and reduce your risk of injury on the course. Cardiovascular conditioning can help delay the onset of muscle fatigue. You should also drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, especially during the summer months.
In addition to working on overall conditioning, another important injury prevention strategy for golfers it to take the time to warm up before hitting the links – just as you would before any playing any other sport. Taking the time to properly warm up before playing will not only help your game that day, it will also lower your risk of injury, and improve your overall level of fitness.