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Posted on in Orthopedics

Golf CAN BE Dangerous to Your Health. Just ask a Golfer’s Elbow.

Medically Reviewed by Pat Denton, MD Pee Dee Orthopaedic Associates

Repetitive, one-sided twisting of the spine. Bending over, repetitively to pick up weights from 10 to 40 pounds. Chronic wear and tear on shoulder and elbow joints. Muscle and tendon tears that create scar tissue. Golf can be fun.  Yet, half of all amateur golfers report some type of orthopedically related injury. (That’s a lot, even when we subtract the 10% who were hit by a club or ball.) For the most part, golf injuries do not vary considerably based on the amateur golfer’s age or handicap.

LOWER BACK PROBLEMS

A poor swing or excessive swings often cause the most common injury. Many golfers turn to ice, heat or ibuprofen. If that doesn’t help, they may turn to a physical therapist or chiropractor.  

“Unfortunately, many golfers with back pain say it is a problem they’ve experienced before," says Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Pat Denton of Pee Dee Orthopaedic Associates. “If lower back pain continues for 2 to 6 weeks, you should see an orthopedic specialist to ensure that 1) it’s not your golf swing and 2) to determine if there is an underlying issue triggering the problem.”

SHOULDER INJURIES

Rotator cuff injuries in the shoulder are another common golfer ailment.  The repeated swinging motion can wear and, even, tear the muscles in the shoulder socket. Ignoring this problem may lead to a build up of scar tissue, limiting movement.

Other causes of sore shoulders are arthritis, bursitis and dislocation of the shoulder joint.

KNEE & HIP PAIN

Golf rarely is the cause of knee and hip pain.  But if a golfer is experiencing pain in these joints, it may be the first signs of their need for a total knee or hip joint replacement.

WRIST & HANDS

The wrist and hands take the bulk of the strain when a golf club strikes the ball or the ground (or the sand). The more of these “hits” that occur, the more strain on ligaments, tendons and tissues that connect the wrist to the fingers.  

PREVENTING INJURIES

Studies reveal a couple common sense ways to avoid these stresses and strains. 

Use some stretching exercises, spending time on the back, legs and shoulders.

Then hit a few golf balls on the driving range.  A word of caution here.  Hitting too many balls on the range can actually be a negative, creating more wear on those muscles and joints used in golf.

FINAL THOUGHT 

Except for a few shots in the rough, the sand or the water, golf should be an enjoyable time.  Keep the fun in and the pain out by watching for signs of strain.  If simple ice, heat and over-the-counter medications don’t solve the issue, see an orthopedic specialist. 

Sources include: McLeod Health, National Institutes of Health, American  Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Journal of Sports Medicine, Bumrungrad International Hospital, Spine-Health.com, British Journal of Sports Medicine, Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality.

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