An estimated one million people in the UK play golf. The combined appeal of a skilled and competitive sport played in the open air makes it easy to see why golf is a favourite pastime for many. However, golf can place a significant strain on your arms, shoulders, wrists and back, and golfing injuries can be painful and debilitating.
Golf is a low impact sport that does not place the same stress on joints and muscles as sports that involve running, high-speed collisions or sudden changes of direction. Nevertheless, it is associated with a significant number of injuries, most of which are caused by overuse or poor technique. Here are some of the most common:
Golf related elbow injuries
This is a form of tendinopathy, or microtearing of the tendons. Whereas tennis elbow is due to damage to the tendons on the outside of the elbow, golfer’s elbow affects the tendons on the inside, connecting the elbow to the forearm.
The main symptom of golfer’s elbow is pain on the bony bump on the inside of the elbow, which runs down into the forearm.
Failing to warm up properly before playing, using an incorrect grip or gripping the club too forcefully can all increase the risk of golfer’s elbow.
Ironically, tennis elbow can as much of a problem for golfers as golfer’s elbow. The former affects the outer tendons of the elbow while golfer’s elbow affects the inner tendons. Both are painful forms of tendinopathy which can be exacerbated by poor technique and overuse.
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Golf related shoulder injuries
Rotator cuff injury
The rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons that hold the ball of your humerus bone inside the socket of your shoulder joint, keeping your shoulder stable and working as it should.
A rotator cuff injury results in the tendons becoming torn, either partially or fully. This can cause pain and loss of movement in your shoulder. In some cases you may develop painful microtearing, known as tendinopathy and can only be seen on a scan, due to repetitive use of the shoulder joint.
Rotator cuff injuries are more common over the age of 40. Symptoms include pain at the top and side of your shoulder which may be sudden and severe. The pain is normally worse when your arm is raised from your side for a prolonged period and it can make sleeping difficult.
Injuries to the rotator cuff can restrict full movement of your shoulder and you may hear a clicking or grating sound. Subacromial bursitis is the body’s attempt to heal the tendon, resulting in inflammation and pain throughout the upper arm.
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Golf related wrist problems
Tendonitis in the wrist is common among golf players due to the repetitive motions made by the wrist during high speed swings and the strain this places on the wrist joint. As a result, tendons can become inflamed and painful, which may make it difficult to hold the golf club properly. Wearing strapping on your wrist can help to reduce the chances of this type of repetitive strain injury and you may also be able to do exercises to strengthen your wrists and forearms.
Treatment of golf injuries
Treatment for golf injuries will depend on the type and severity of the injury. For any kind of injury it is important to take a break and not to continue using the affected area until you feel like the symptoms may have gone away. You can use ice and compression to reduce swelling and take painkillers to relieve pain. A physiotherapist may be able to suggest exercises to build strength and flexibility in the affected area. If the problem is caused by poor technique, having some professional coaching may prevent a recurrence.
In the case of shoulder problems, you may be able to have an injection of steroids into the affected area to produce a short-term reduction in symptoms. Dry needling is a technique designed to provoke the body’s natural healing response and can be effective for golfer’s and tennis elbow. An alternative to this is shockwave treatment. In more serious cases, surgery may be needed to repair torn muscles and tendons.
Diagnosing Sports Injuries – London
It is impossible to determine the most effective type of treatment until the cause of the symptoms has been established. Sometimes this is possible through asking you questions about your symptoms and examining the area affected. Diagnostic tests, such as an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI scan, are also very useful in many cases
These enable the orthopaedic surgeon to see exactly what is going on inside the joint and how severe the damage is. This will determine whether a short-term change in activities, physiotherapy and painkillers will be enough to correct the problem or if you will need a more invasive procedure such as surgery. Without a proper diagnosis you run the risk of injury recurrence, failure of treatment and more lasting damage.
If you have a shoulder, upper arm or elbow injury it is important to receive specialist advice so you can understand the options available to you and make a decision based on a full understanding of the risks and benefits. Contact Thames Shoulder and Elbow to talk through the options for your particular injury.