September 24th 2021

Golfing Injury Prevention & Performance; Conor Gavin, Senior Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist

Having an effective golfing physical preparedness routine in place can help people through removing the physical barriers to enhanced performance in their game. Having such a routine in place can allow people to stop golfing when they want to, as opposed to when their body dictates through injury.

The following blog provides some context on how golfing injuries occur, how to try prevent them and how physio can help if needed.

Injuries and Golf

Breaking golfing injuries down, low back pain is the most common complaint for male golfers, while elbow and wrist injuries are most common for females. Overload injuries are also problematic for all due to the asymmetrical nature of the sport.

Several factors have been identified as possible culprits in the development of low back pain in golfers, and can be broadly split into two categories:

  • External factors (e.g. inappropriate club length, poor footwear, repetition and asymmetry, etc.)
  • Internal factors (joint stiffness, poor muscular control, biomechanical force overload into the lower back)

Tennis elbow is the most common upper limb injury in golf (at a frequency of 6:1 over golfer’s elbow!) and is most common on the lead side – i.e. the left elbow for a right-handed golfer. The main treatments for this are adequate scapular (shoulder blade) stability, hand strength, good shoulder mobility, and the ability to maintain a neutral stable wrist (i.e. avoiding extension) when moving through range. A good exercise to train a neutral wrist is to hold a club (initially by the head, progressing to by the grip for eccentric control) and raising and lowering the club in a ground-to-ceiling direction and back again just through wrist movement alone. It is important to maintain a neutral wrist and grip through the 3rd-5th fingers as opposed to the thumb.

For the lower limb, the ability to move well in functional movement patterns is important – these include double and single leg squats, hip hinging (e.g. Romanian Dead Lifts, Good-Mornings), lumbar spine-pelvic dissociation (e.g. Cat-Camel) and lateral hip stability (e.g. side-lying Clams).

Golf Swing Biomechanics – Facts and Tips

Some swing phase-specific tips for injury prevention and improved performance:

  • Address position: the ability to maintain a neutral shoulder blade position is important. Golfers often hitch up the lead shoulder which can cause over-activity in specific neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Keeping this neutral and maintaining a natural thoracic spine (mid-upper back) curve is important to maintain the body-arm connection for optimum biomechanics.
  • Swing position: There is a centripetal (making the body follow a curved-path) force of on average 90kgs acting on the arms and shoulders during the swing to control – i.e. a force trying to pull the arms away from the body which needs to be controlled through core stability.
  • Increased cervical spine (neck) movement during the downswing can cause a loss of control and thus increased stress through the wrists.
  • Golfers should be advised to let the head follow the body through the downswing and post contact phases to avoid stress on the neck and reduce risk of disc and/or nerve injuries.

Tips to Help Prevent Injury and Improve Performance

Some quick tips to help with your game and prevent a trip to the physio!

Regular posture break exercises (e.g. thoracic spine (mid-upper back) extensions, scapula setting/shoulder blade squeezes, and hitting a few balls off the weaker side) can help increase swing efficiency and break the asymmetrical overload of golf.

It’s a good idea to perform these exercises both before starting, but also mid-round if fatigue is starting to increase or if you notice the ball flight changes.

How can Physio Help?

We hope the above helps keeps you off the treatment table and on the golf course, but should you need us there are plenty of ways in which we can help here at the Beacon. Typical physiotherapy interventions that are put in place for patients with a golfing injury, or an injury impairing their ability to play golf include:

  • Motor control re-patterning
  • Manual therapy (hands-on treatment)
  • Taping
  • Load modification
  • Strength and conditioning
  • Technique analysis

If you would like more information or to book in to see Conor about prevention or treatment of golf injuries, contact our Physiotherapy Department on 01 293 6692 or email physiotherapy@beaconhospital.ie