Sports Performance
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Golf is a sport that requires repetitive strokes and swings and lots of explosive force through the arms, especially during long drives. Overuse injuries of the wrist, elbow and shoulders are common. Golf also requires players to frequently and repeatedly twist the torso during strokes and swings, which may cause a strain of the muscles of the lower back. Learn about the best ways to treat and prevent overuse injuries of the wrist, elbow, shoulder and lower back, including inflammation, tendonitis and bursitis.

Low Back Pain

Golf – Low Back Pain

Golf requires players to frequently and repeatedly twist the torso during strokes and swings. Due to this, players may strain the muscles of the lower back, causing pain during or after playing a game. More often, if you have a history of low back pain and the act of golfing exacerbates it, preventive action should be taken.

Strengthening and stabilizing your core muscles is the number-one way to prevent low back pain. When you swing a golf club, you twist through the muscles of your core, including the abdominals, hips and back. Strengthening these muscles will transfer the explosive force required during a golf swing more evenly, decreasing the chances for strain or injury. A good core exercise program should be maintained both on- and off-season to prevent lower back injuries.

If you experience low back pain during your golf round, you should rest and ice the area immediately to reduce pain. In addition, anti-inflammatories may be taken as directed. If low back pain is accompanied with pain running down the legs, or rest and ice does not reduce the pain, you should see a health care professional to see if there is a more serious injury than muscle strain.

If you have a history of arthritis of the back or sciatica and it flares up due to playing golf, more invasive treatments may be needed, such as surgery or injections.

Overuse Injuries

Golf – Overuse Injuries

Golf is a sport that requires repetitive strokes and swings and lots of force through the arms, especially during long drives. For these reasons, overuse injuries can occur in the wrist, elbow and shoulder, often resulting in tendonitis or bursitis in these areas.

A common injury is golfer’s elbow, which is similar to tennis elbow; however, it is caused by a strain to the tendons on the inside rather than the outside of the elbow. Since the tendons of your forearm muscle attach to the inside of your elbow, the pain may spread to the forearm and wrist. This type of tendonitis is most often associated with golf, but can also occur in other activities.

Another common overuse injury is shoulder pain due to tendonitis, bursitis or impingement of the shoulder. Tendonitis occurs when the four tendons of the rotator cuff become irritated or damaged due to overuse. Bursitis occurs when the bursa (tiny fluid-filled sac that serves as a gliding surface to reduce friction between tissues of the shoulder) becomes inflamed, causing pain. Impingement occurs when the rotator cuff and bursa rub together (impinge), causing irritation and pain.

Learn how to prevent wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries.

Overuse injuries such as bursitis of the knee, calf strains and ankle pain may occur due to the amount of walking required on the golf course. These injuries occur far less often. Low back injuries [Link to Low Back Pain page] may also occur due to the twisting, repetitive nature of a golf swing,

Treating Overuse Injuries

With an overuse injury to any body part, the best place to start is with a R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) routine, with rest from the sport being key. During play, wrapping the injured body part can provide some compression and relief. Elevation should be utilized for lower extremity issues where the body part is lifted above heart level to decrease pain and swelling. An anti-inflammatory may be taken if it’s medically safe for the person taking it.

If these actions do not seem to help the pain after a few days, it is best to visit a health care professional to see if physical therapy or orthopedic surgery is necessary.

Preventing wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries

Golf – Preventing wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries

Golf is a sport that requires repetitive strokes and swings and lots of explosive force through the arms, often causing overuse injuries of the wrist, elbow and shoulders. The best ways to prevent these injuries, such as inflammation, tendonitis or bursitis, include:

  • Increase flexibility: Both on- and off-season stretch your arms daily to increase flexibility of the muscles and reduce injury.
  • Follow a regular strengthening program: Lifting light (3-5 lb.) weights just 15 minutes per day can go a long way in preventing shoulder impingement (rubbing of the rotator cuff and bursa), golfer’s elbow (tendonitis of the inside of the elbow) and other injuries. Strengthening the muscles allows them to absorb stress better while playing golf, preventing injury.
  • Warm up before playing: Warm and loosen up your arm muscles before playing by doing some practice swings. Start with lower weight clubs and work your way up to the heavier clubs, such as the driver.
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