By Dr. John C. Kagan, M.D.
Southwest Florida is one of the most popular areas in the country for golfers, with nearly 150 courses to choose from. Because of its popularity, however, golf injuries are common as well. While golf is often thought of as a low-impact sport, it can lead to ankle, elbow, spine, knee, hip and wrist injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 11,000 people suffered from golf-related injuries in 2011, and golf injuries have been on the rise over the last decade. Most golf injuries are caused by the repetitive motion of the golf swing, which places stress on the same muscles and joints repeatedly.
By taking the time to properly exercise and stretch before your tee time, you can enjoy a pain-free round of golf. Stretching before your golf game helps promote a fluid and full golf swing. Focus on your shoulders, back and legs.
One of the most common injuries for golfers is known as “golfer’s elbow.” Also known as tendinitis, golfer’s elbow occurs when the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the end of the arm bone become inflamed or damaged. By strengthening the forearm muscles and slowing your golf swing, you can prevent the shock that occurs when the club hits the ball and prevent injury.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Sur-geons (AAOS) recommends these exercises to help prevent golfer’s elbow::
• Squeeze a tennis ball. Squeezing an old tennis ball for 5 minutes at a time is a simple, effective exercise that will strengthen your forearm muscles.
• Wrist curls. Use a lightweight dumbbell. Lower the weight to the end of your fingers, and then curl the weight back into your palm, followed by curling up your wrist to lift the weight an inch or two higher. Perform 10 repetitions with one arm, and then repeat with the other arm.
• Reverse wrist curls. Use a lightweight dumbbell. Place your hands in front of you, palm side down. Using your wrist, lift the weight up and down. Hold the arm that you are exercising above your elbow with your other hand in order to limit the motion to your forearm. Perform 10 repetitions with one arm, and then repeat with the other arm.
Lower Back Pain
Another common complaint for golfers is low back pain. Improper swings are a common cause of back pain. During the rotation, a considerable amount of stress is placed on the spine and the surrounding muscles. In addition, minor muscle strains caused by a lack of strength and poor flexibility can turn into more serious injuries with repeated stress from golf swings.
The AAOS recommends these simple exercise to strengthen the lower back muscles:
• Rowing. Firmly tie the ends of a piece of rubber tubing. Place it around an object that is shoulder height (like a door hinge). Standing with your arms straight out in front of you, grasp the tubing and slowly pull it toward your chest. Release slowly. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions, at least three times a week.
• Pull Downs. With the rubber tubing still around the door hinge, kneel and hold the tubing over your head. Pull down slowly toward your chest, bending your elbows as you lower your arms. Raise the tubing slowly over your head. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions, at least three times a week.
• Yoga and Pilates. These exercise programs focus on trunk and abdomen strength, as well as flexibility.
Prevention, as the saying goes, is the best medicine. By taking the time to properly stretch and exercise before your game, you can be ready for whatever the fairway – or rough – has in store.
If you have concerns about golf injuries or other orthopedic disorders, Dr. John C. Kagan and his staff are ready to answer your questions. Dr. Kagan has more than 30 years of experience as an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist treating patients in Southwest Florida. He specializes in treating patients with knee, shoulder and hip pain, as well as general orthopedics and hand surgery. For more information, visit www.kaganortho.com or call 239-936-6778.