Due to its perception as a recreational activity, golf is not usually associated with a high prevalence of injury, but surveys such as those performed by Batt (1992) show a reported injury rate of 57 per cent over a 12 month period for amateur golfers. Common areas injured include the low back, shoulder, elbow, wrist and knee, with the proportions varying widely between males and females, professionals and amateurs (McCarrol, 1996). A 2003 study found that almost 83 per cent of injuries could be classified as overuse, with the remaining resulting from a single traumatic event.
One injury commonly seen in PhysioTrain clinics is low back pain.
“The low back is the most common injury sustained whilst playing golf, and the dynamic action of the golf swing is a major contributing factor to injury.” McHardy, Pollard, Luo (2006).
In professional golfers, injury to the lower back is the most common injury, with over 90 per cent being related to ‘excessive play’, or overuse. In fact there are significantly more injuries in golfers who play four or more rounds a week and in those who hit more than 200 balls in one week.
The rapid rotation involved in the golf swing places obvious loads on the spine, which are increased significantly when the swing is not well controlled. It is common for amateur players to perform inadequate warm up, with over 80 per cent found to warm up for less than 10 minutes (Gosheger, 2003). Biomechanical factors such as decreased range of motion in the hamstrings, hip joints, lumbar and thoracic spine will all contribute to increased and/or unbalanced loads on the spine. Other factors such as the stooped posture adopted when putting, and carrying or lifting the golf bag were also attributed to a higher incidence of lower back injuries in both amateurs and professionals (Gosheger, 2003).
Injuries to the elbow are also common, cited by McCarroll, Retting & Shelbourne (1990) as the most common site of injury for female professional golfers. While tendinopathy at the medial elbow is known as ‘golfer’s elbow’, it is injury to the lateral epicondyle that accounts for up to 85 per cent of elbow injuries (McCarroll, 1990). Biomechanical factors such as gripping the club too firmly or altering the grip used can lead to overuse injury.
As well as treating these injuries when they present, Physiotherapists can play an important role in screening, and attempting to identify biomechanical factors that can be corrected before they lead to injury.
Hip joint internal rotation (IR) is one important physical component that can be measured in the screening process. This movement is important in the forward leg (i.e. left hip for right handed players) as the body is rapidly rotating from right to left as the weight is being transferred. If there is inadequate range of movement (ROM) of the hip into internal rotation then the rotation of the pelvis will be blocked. This may result in pressure on the hip itself or the left knee, but it is also likely that compensatory movement of the pelvis and lumbar spine will occur, resulting in increased rotation and lateral flexion of the lumbar spine. These compensatory movements will be uncontrolled and occur at close to the maximal moment of torque in the golf swing.
Don’t play in pain. Take action and get a Golf Screening today.
Golf Screening at PhysioTrain helps recreational golfers remain pain free on the golf course and maintain or improve performance. Our golf-specific physical examination looks at the movement patterns, flexibility and functional strength requirements of the golf swing.
We use a system developed by the world leading Titleist Performance Institute to assess golfers for areas of tightness, weakness or lack of muscular control that may be affecting their game.
We have exclusive access to use a large database of golf specific exercises and can email you a tailored exercise program, complete with videos, that you can watch at home or on your smartphone to guide your tailored program.
Contact us today to make a Golf Screening appointment with a Physiotherapist.