The snow has (mostly) melted, temperatures are warming up, and the trees are starting to look a little greener. Spring is officially here, and so is golf season!
Golf is an ideal sport – it keeps you active while spending time in the great outdoors with friends and family. Golf is typically perceived as a low-risk sport when it comes to injuries, but many golfers will experience pain at some point in their careers.
Swinging a club involves a complex series of motions and utilizes many parts of the body. The explosive nature of a good swing can put a lot of stress on our joints. The following are some of the most common golf injuries our doctors see here at The Center:
A golf swing is one of the more violent ballistic activities, and it places a high rotational stress on the knee. According to Dr. Timothy Bollom, the force on your lead leg during a golf swing is between 4 ½ to 5 times your body weight – and it all happens in less than a quarter of a second.
“It would be less stress overall on the knee to jog 18 holes than to play 18 holes,” says Dr. Bollom.
A torn meniscus is one of the most common knee injuries Dr. Bollom sees in golf players. The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between your thighbone and shinbone and a tear can be the result of direct contact or twisting the knee. Symptoms of a torn meniscus include unremitting sharp pain, increased pain with twisting, stiffness and swelling, and a limited range of motion.
Arthritis is another common knee injury because the knees bear the weight of the body. Over time, the cartilage in the knee wears down and stops protecting the ends of the bones in the joint. Symptoms include pain, swelling, stiffness, and trouble bending or straightening the knee.
Tendonitis and ligament tears are also injuries commonly seen in the knees of golfers.
Dr. Bollom recommends making a few adjustments to avoid knee trouble while still enjoying the game:
- Warm up before you play to make sure your muscles are engaged
- Tweak your swing; club down, and rotate your lead leg 10-20 degrees out
- Wear soft or no spikes
According to Dr. Blake Nonweiler, our shoulders are the best joint in the body. They are extremely complex, and have more muscles and ligaments attached than any other joint. Because of this, they are also one of the most common joints to injure – especially when you’re practicing your golf swing.
Rotator cuff injuries are a highly common cause of shoulder pain. The rotator cuff is a group of tendons that contribute to the stability of the shoulder. Symptoms of injury can include constant shoulder pain, pain or weakness when lifting or lowering your arm, limited range of motion, or clicking/popping. Dr. Nonweiler says ⅔ to ¾ of people with rotator cuff problems don’t require surgery.
Injuries to the rotator cuff can vary, including tears and tendonitis. A tear is when one or more of the tendons that make up the rotator cuff is torn and the tendon is no longer fully attached to the humerus bone. Tendonitis occurs when the rotator cuff tendons become compressed against the shoulder blade and often occurs in athletes who preform repetitive overhead movements.
Rest, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, and physical therapy are all good methods to start healing the rotator cuff.
Lower Back Injuries
Over 80% of people experience at least one episode of back pain at some point in their life. The spine is one of the most important parts of the body – it helps us stand upright, move, and bend. To maintain a healthy spine and avoid degeneration, Dr. Brad Ward recommends maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, and avoiding smoking.
The spine is made up of small bones, called vertebrae, which stack up on each other with sponge-like, jelly-filled disks between the bones, along with muscles, ligaments, and nerves. Bulging, slipped, or herniated discs can occur in the spine due to arthritis, trauma, or aging. A common cause of severe back pain is from a compressed nerve.
Vertebral compression fractures are another common back injury, occurring in nearly 700,000 patients each year. These fractures are typically linked to osteoporosis and most commonly occur in the lower back. Pain often gets worse when sitting or standing for a long period of time – such as out on the golf course.
Lumbar stenosis is another condition where the spinal canal narrows, putting pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves, resulting in radiating lower back pain. It can be caused by herniated discs, arthritis, spinal injury, or bone disease.
Dr. Ward always recommends conservative treatment options first, including physical therapy, medication, and rest. If these don’t relive the pain, surgery may be recommended.
Golf should be enjoyable, not painful! Our goal is to help you diagnose, manage, and treat your pain so you can get back to doing what you love. If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms this season, come pay us a visit!