Common Golf Injuries & How to Avoid Them: Golfer’s Elbow, Back Pain, and More

Golf is an explosive sport that involves hours of practice. Like any skilled sport, golf can result in nagging injuries. Ignoring pain and injury can cause permanent damage to your body and your musculoskeletal system. Seeking treatment and prevention for common golf injuries can prolong your golf career and improve your game. Watch out for the following common complaints:

Elbow Pain

There are two common types of elbow conditions seen in golfers. “Golfer’s Elbow”, also known as “medial epicondylitis”, contributes to pain in the tendon on the inside of your elbow. Repetitive gripping and flexing involved in the golf swing cause irritation and tiny tears in the elbow tendon. Treating Golfer’s Elbow usually involves avoiding movements that aggravate the pain and icing for 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times daily. Anti-inflammatory medication can help to relieve severe pain, and you may want to contact a physical therapist or medical professional.

Golfers also tend to suffer from “Tennis Elbow”. It is actually more common for golfers to suffer from Tennis Elbow than Golfer’s Elbow. Tennis elbow is characterized by pain on the outside of your elbow. In most cases, Tennis Elbow is a symptom of improper ball contact and can be prevented by training to correct technique. Much like Golfer’s Elbow, treatment involves rest, icing, and physical therapy to strengthen the forearm muscles.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Shoulder pain from golfing can often be attributed to the rotator cuff. Injuries involving the rotator cuff in your shoulder are common for golfers and often stem from overuse, poor swing technique, or impacts caused by taking deep divots or hitting firm obstacles other than the ball (like a rock). Most rotator cuff injuries can be treated with rest and anti-inflammatory medication, but severe or repetitive injuries may result in the need for surgery. The best way to prevent rotator cuff injuries is to practice the proper swing technique.

Back Pain

The bent-over position involved in golfing stance in combination with the rotational stresses of swinging the club can put substantial stress on the spine and back muscles. Preventing back pain from golf can be as simple as stretching in between swings, but most golfers benefit from exercises that strengthen the core. Treatment for pain requires rest and a few days off the course, but if you suffer from chronic back pain, a physical therapist can help you to address symptoms and prevent flare-ups. Learn more about back pain and how to treat it by reading our article Back to Basics with Lower Back Pain.

Neck Injuries

New golfers often experience neck pain as they become accustomed to twisting their bodies. Long hours at the driving range can also result in painful neck spasms. Always remember to warm up thoroughly before playing and take breaks when practicing your swing. Prevent neck pain and injury with physical therapy exercises that strengthen and stretch the neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles, and if you experience an injury, treat it with rest and icing.

Hand and Wrist Injuries

Golf is a dynamic sport highlighting high-speed golf swings that place your wrists, hands, and fingers at risk for injury. Repetitive blunt trauma can result in deformed or even broken bones and can contribute to tendon injuries. A golf-specific training program (like the one offered by Alan Barb) can help to prevent these type of injuries.

Foot and Ankle Injuries

The power behind a golf swing is generated from the feet as they push into the ground. Improper stance and poor footwear can lead to injuries in the foot and ankle. Strains, sprains, tendonitis, and blisters are common in golfers. Adhering to strict form and practicing good technique can prevent these ailments. Good footwear that provides traction and proper support for your feet and ankles is also important.

Whether you are a first-time golfer or a seasoned veteran, most golfers can benefit from a targeted conditioning program that helps them to learn, improve, and maintain good form and technique. These foundations can not only reduce your chance of these common golf injuries and others, but may also shave a few swings off your game. If you would like to improve your golf game please contact Alan Barb, DPT, OCS, a Titleist performance specialized therapist (TPI) for a golf performance assessment at Move Better Golf Performance, contact us at (434) 817-0980 to schedule an appointment!