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Dear Dr. Caraotta,
Golfing seems like the perfect low-impact sport and a great way to get some exercise in my weekly schedule. Are there any special health factors I should be aware of when playing golf?
Dr. Caraotta's Response
Golf is perceived as a low-risk sport when comparing it to football, rugby or basketball, but history has shown that professional and amateur golfers have their fair share of injuries. This is especially when the golfers fail to warm up before the game. Low back pain is the most common injury or complaint among both professional and amateur golfers, followed by elbow and shoulder injuries. Professional golfers experience a higher number of wrist injuries, and amateur golfers experience more elbow problems. Both groups have a relatively high rate of shoulder injuries.
Low back problems can occur as a result of the powerful rotation and extension motion in the golf swing. When the torso and hips are moving rapidly from back to front, the back can keep the torso rotating and put an incredible strain on the spine. Golfers who carry their own bag have twice the incidence of back, shoulder and ankle injuries as those who do not carry their bag.
The elbow is the second most commonly injured area in golfers, primarily in the medial (inside) and lateral (outside) epicondylar regions. Both are thought to occur as a result of poor swing mechanics. Medial epicondylitis is thought to be caused by hitting shots “fat” (that is, hitting the ground first), and lateral epicondylitis may be caused by over-swinging with the right hand in right-handed golfers. Both of these problems increase with age and frequency of play. The key to preventing golfer's elbow is to avoid overuse.
If feeling any pain in the elbow during an activity, stop before it gets worse. Golfer's elbow may also be brought on by using the wrong equipment, like a golf club or tennis racket that are too heavy or that has a grip that is too large. Bad technique - like using the wrong posture for a swing -- can also lead to golfer's elbow.
Another commonly injured area in golfers is the shoulder. There are specific muscles in the shoulder that are most active in the swing. These are the subscapularis (one of the rotator cuff muscles), pectoralis and latissimus muscles. Impingement syndrome, rotator cuff problems, and arthritis are the most common shoulder problems. These occur most frequently in the lead arm. A good warm-up routine and specific exercises that target the shoulder could help to curtail shoulderer problems.
If you develop problems in these areas, DO NOT HESITATE to contact our office. We work with injuires of this nature on a daily basis along with a variety of sports injuries!
If you have a question that you would like Dr. Caraotta to address in their column, you could send your question to their office at 4921 E. State Street, Rockford, IL. 61108 or call your question in at Caraotta Chiropractic Orthopedics, (815) 398-4004 and ask to speak with one of the doctors.