Golf is enjoyed by almost 4 million people in the UK alone and in general, is considered a safe sport with a low risk of injury. However, a report carried out by United States of America National Center for Health Statistics in 2016 revealed that golf is no longer as low risk as originally thought and instead the sport caused a higher number of recreational injuries than rugby, hockey and even boxing.
Furthermore, research by the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that 15.8% to 40.9% of amateur golfers suffer an injury on an annual basis, with lower back ailments being the main injury culprits.
Like any sport, minimising the risk of injury is paramount. Not only can an injury impact performance on the course, but it can also play a significant role in affecting day to day life if left untreated.
Our centre, Prime Health in Weybridge, is one of only 4 accredited European Tour International Clinics and treats both amateur and professional golfers on the full spectrum of golfing related injuries.
Amongst their expert team, and with almost 30 years under his belt supporting the European Tour as a physiotherapist, Jonathan Shrewsbury has seen and treated golfers at all levels of playing.
Through his many years of practising as a physiotherapist, Jonathan has compiled and shares his top tips to avoid golf injuries and improve performance on the green.
Get to the course early and warm up prior to your round. Just 3-4 minutes of cardiovascular exercise (brisk walking, running on the spot, step ups) will raise the core body temperature by 1°C which in turn will improve and optimise blood flow to muscles and joints. Follow your cardiovascular workout with some dynamic stretching and then you are ready to hit some balls.
Easy Does it!
Start practising or warming up with a little strain on the body and then work it up. Don’t hit a Driver (big long levers) or Wedges (sudden impact with the ground) first because they significantly increase the risk of injury. Hit 6-12 teed up 7 irons to start with and once you feel a bit warmer and more mobile then move through the clubs in the bag.
Slave to the Rhythm
Work on your swing tempo. The more rhythmical the golf swing the less likely you are to injure yourself. Ask for help from your Club Pro’s if necessary.
Quality not Quantity
Practice is all about quality versus quantity. Don’t just hit golf balls on the range or putt on the practice green for the sake of it. Set goals that you want to achieve. Set a limit of balls to hit or time to practice and stick to it. The longer you practice the more chance there is of creating overuse injuries. If you start feeling tired – take a break!
Out on the green, we can experience four seasons in one round so make sure you have adequate clothing to keep the muscles and joints warm, especially around your back and neck. The wind cools the skin and reduces blood flow to the surrounding tissues, increasing the chance of injury. If you really don’t want too many layers on, consider wearing a thin ‘base layer’ under your polo shirt.
Let the Straps take the Strain
If you choose to carry a golf bag then make sure it has a stand mechanism to reduce the number of times you have to bend over. Also use double loop straps to evenly distribute the weight through your neck, shoulders and back.
Push Me? Pull Me?
If you use a trolley push it DON’T pull it. Pushing a trolley creates less tension and strain on your back.
Lighten the Load
Make sure you keep your golf bag as light as possible. Regularly check that you are not adding unnecessary weight to carry around (do you really need 28 golf balls or 3 half empty old bottles of water?)
Mind the Bend
When you bend over you increase the spinal pressure between 50-100% so always keep your back straight and bend your knees when getting clubs in and out of the car or reading putts etc.
Take your Medicine
Be careful hitting balls in heavy rough, near branches or tree roots. If you are concerned about hitting them and causing yourself damage, make sure you adjust your shot or club selection. If in doubt, ask if you are allowed to take a penalty drop?
If you do experience a golf injury, don’t ignore it and expect it to go away on its own. Left or ignored could worsen the injury and create more lasting, irreparable damage. The best course of treatment is to see a sports injury expert so they can diagnose the issue and recommend the best course for recovery.