It’s hard to forget the shock of watching Tiger Woods collapse to the ground in the final round of The Barclays in August 2013. The extent of the back injury was made highly public. It marked the commencement of Woods going off-grid for a lengthy period. The best golfers in the world present common injuries. Think of Day, Woods, McIlroy and Rose. So if these guys, with access to all the best trainers and coaches, are prone to injuries, then we are too!
Here are three of the most common golfing ailments, along with preventative measures designed to keep golfers game fit each and every week:
How to avoid back injuries
Typically, the demands on the back from a golf swing are substantial. The back is expected to perform a physically taxing, three-dimensional technical motion 50 or more times every round. It’s critical that this component of swing biomechanics is maintained in tip-top shape. As a result of the repetitive motion, the back (especially the lower back) is susceptible to strained and pulled muscles, disc movement or worse, nerve pinching.
Swing analysis and then swing adjustment is the long-term solution to prevent this affliction. Invariably it will also be part of the recovery regime after a serious back issue. Get the pro to check out your swing and confess to any back problems so that he or she knows what they are dealing with. It might be quite obvious to them anyway!
Support your back with strength training and stretching
Regular gym sessions are valuable to build overall biomechanic capability and resilience. They should focus on strengthening stomach muscles. These will support your back as the body twists and dips, and aid in adding distance without over-swinging (a common cause of strained backs).
Commit to an informed warm-up routine. Not just on the odd-occasion when there are a few extra minutes waiting on the first tee, but prior to each and every round or practice session. Select three stretches that target the lower and mid-back, such as slow toe touches with a club in hand (no bouncing). Combine this with reaching up high, with arms holding your driver at shoulder distance apart and reaching for the stars. Try slow side-to-side rotations, with the club held short, pivoting without jolting in a controlled way, so that the lower back stretches. This replicates torque in the swing and will warm-up the appropriate muscle group.
There are numerous other exercises, but this set of three are easy to remember and can be completed in six minutes or so while you wait for your tee time. Avoid turning up and belting your driver for 20 minutes without any warm-up. Your confidence might be boosted, but your back might suffer!
How to avoid knee injuries
Knee injuries and golf are a little “chicken and egg.” An existing niggling injury can adversely affect a golf swing, which in turn, affects other aspects of body biomechanics, leading to new or exacerbated injuries and poor shot play. Likewise, a poor golf swing can cause a knee injury. If you have a pre-existing knee injury then a diagnosis will help inform what to do with your golf swing. If the golf swing has generated the knee issue, get the golf swing fixed in order to minimize further knee damage.
Knees support the entire frame, so keep in mind that your weight impacts the knees, regardless of how great or poor your golf swing is. Orthopedic surgeons advise that losing a few pounds will always have a positive impact on knee capacity. Leading orthopedic surgeon to the top U.S. athletes, Dr. Di Nubile, stated in a 2011 CNN article that, “Every pound you are carrying equates to between five to eight in terms of pressure on the knee during a golf swing.”
How to avoid shoulder injuries
Essentially, this is a muscle tear at the very spot where the muscle needs to hold on tight to the bone. This injury most often afflicts the frequent golfer or those hitting in excess of 200 balls a week at either the range or on-course. Both shoulders can be affected, since the swing motion makes extreme demands on the backswing on one shoulder, and on the other shoulder on release and follow-through. The resultant joint pain is very uncomfortable and will require treatment and rest.
Like the back, developing flexibility and strength will help prevent rotator cuff injuries. Build some rotator cuff exercises into your warm-up routine. The most common and easiest to undertake is the shoulder stretch, whereby the right arm is moved across the chest and the left hand cups the elbow to slowly stretch the shoulder. Repeat on both sides. Stand near a door frame, create an L-shape with your elbow to hand, straight out from the shoulder. Press the L-shaped elbow and lower arm against the wall and gently push back by pushing the chest forward and away from the shoulder. Swap and repeat with both shoulders. A quick one is placing one hand behind the head and reaching for a spot between the shoulder blades. Use the other hand to cup the elbow and slowly stretch back. All are very effective.
The most common injury on the golf course
The least talked-about, and perhaps most common, injury on a golf course is a combination of heat or sunstroke and dehydration. Never underestimate the damage that the sun can render on your skin, mind and internal organs. Always wear a hat, sunscreen (replenished during a round) and polarized sunglasses. Consume water regularly during the round. Your skin is vulnerable and exposed, so be respectful and conservative all year-round to minimize long-term damage.
The old adage “prevention is better than cure” is the take-home message here. Construct a meaningful warm-up routine for golf days and an exercise regime for every day. This will help avoid the typical injuries that keep golfers off the course for weeks, months or (as in Woods’ case) years.
— N. Incoll