Let’s face it: Golf is a great summer sport but toting a heavy, club-filled bag and contorting your body in complicated postures can sometimes take a toll. Add in the hunched or contorted stances golfers have to repeat for several hours, a sun-parched course with little shade and miles of walking--and you’ve got the ingredients for some pain.
To help you get into the best swing of things, we asked Dr. John Baldea, a sports medicine specialist at Indiana University Health, for some winning strategies. Here, smart advice to prevent problems this season.
- Slather on sunscreen—and reapply when needed, even on cloudy days. It sounds obvious, but it’s often a misstep on the part of many, which can lead to bad burns, says Dr. Baldea, who adds that while often golfers use sunscreen, they often get so engaged in their game that they can forget to reapply the product after its directed time.
- Pull, don’t carry, your golf bag when possible, suggests Dr. Baldea. Carrying a heavy bag for 18 holes can cause the spine to shrink, leading to disc problems and nerve irritation as well as shoulder strain. While walking the course if preferable for the aerobic exercise, he says, it can also be aggravating if you have chronic lower back, hip, knee, foot or ankle problems, so riding a golf cart may be more reasonable.
- Go for the right equipment. Don’t try to adapt your swing to the wrong clubs. For instance, a six-footer playing with irons designed for someone five inches shorter is begging for back trouble.
- Sneak in some stretches. Golf is a sport and like others, your body needs to prep accordingly for optimal performance and injury prevention, says Dr. Baldea. Due to this, it's a good idea to spend some extra time performing quality stretches – before and after your game – to increase your trunk flexibility. So, consider doing some lunges and squats right before you start golfing to loosen and warm up muscles.
- Stay hydrated. Golf courses typically have little shade, which can spur heavy sweating. When you sweat a lot and don’t drink water, dehydration can set in which can put a damper on your health—and your game, explains Dr. Baldea. How? Dehydration can trigger early fatigue, which can initiate a domino effect, leading you to compensate by adjusting your swing, thus increasing the possibility of injury.
-- By Sarah Burns