Golf has many rewards. While not as strenuous as many sports, playing 18 holes covers about 5 miles and burns about 500 calories (add another 100 calories if you carry your own bag). Golf produces fewer injuries than many other sports, but golfers are still prone to low back pain, wrist and elbow problems, and rotator cuff (shoulder) injury.
Low back pain is the most common complaint among both pro and amateur golfers. If you play frequently and your back and abdominal muscles aren't strong enough, you're a candidate for overuse pain in the lower back. Obesity, smoking and poor overall fitness make you especially susceptible to back pain.
Swinging a golf club can also put undue stress on the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder. Repeated overuse can cause microscopic tears in the tendons of these 4 muscles which leads to swelling and inflammation. Keeping the rotator cuff strong and flexible can help prevent injury, as well as improve your game.
Wrists and elbows need to withstand a great deal of stress in golf. The elbow is at high risk if your club hits the ground or hits an unexpected obstacle. “Golfer's Elbow” can cause pain on the inside and outside of the joint, and can affect both elbows. Wrist pain usually affects the left wrist (if you're right-handed).
To protect yourself:
- Warm up and stretch the above muscles before and after playing.
- Learn to strengthen your back, abdominal, shoulder, elbow, and wrist muscles. This will help you avoid injury.
- Check your technique with a Pro. Poor technique will take it's toll as the months and years fly by.
- Whenever you bend over, save your back by bending your knees.
- Walk the course as much as possible. Sitting in a cart puts extra pressure on your back and lets your muscles cool down. If you're prone to back pain, don't carry or pull your bag much, even though it's good exercise. When you do carry your bag, make sure the weight is evenly distributed on your back.
- From time to time while walking a course, hold a club across your back in the crooks of your elbows. This can help your posture and also stretch yourback.
- If you have a problem with tight muscles, consider working with a physiotherapist (i.e. Massage Therapist, Chiropractor, or Physical Therapist) to rectify the problem. This can clearly lessen discomfort and might also help your game!