By Greg Doucette, MSPT, OCS
We all want to hit drives like Bubba and Dustin Johnson, putt like Jordan Spieth, or have Phil Mickelson’s wedge game. But unfortunately, on Monday mornings when the pros are heading to the range, you are likely heading to work.
Naturally, this difference promotes any number of variances in results; Everything from a professional’s average driver club-head speed, to average driving distance, to the sheer number of golf balls hit every week. It also helps to explain why injuries suffered by professional golfers often differ significantly from amateurs.
Professional golfers will be on the course all week long, compared to your Sunday afternoon tee time. With all this time to focus on golf, professionals will suffer any number of injuries, with the spine and wrist being the most common, but also include overuse injuries to the shoulders, hips, and knees. The typical professional golfer has perfect mechanics, honed by years of practice and refined by expert coaches. However, our bodies are not made to repeat motions over and over, especially with significant effort. Even with ideal mechanics, this repetition puts the body at risk for breakdowns, compensations, and eventually, pain.
Amateur golfers, however, are much more likely to have either low back pain or elbow pain, commonly attributed to poor mechanics. When you only have limited time out on the green, it can be difficult to hone in on your skills. There are many swing errors that golfers may commit, and when they’re repeated, the risk of injury is significantly increased. Poor mechanics can also be affected by an infinite number of outside influences. Are you walking or riding in a cart? Do you carry your own clubs? Do you have a couple of drinks or smoke during your round? What are you doing for exercise in between rounds? How often do you see the PGA Professional at your club? Answers to each of these questions, and many others could have a huge effect on your score, and more importantly, your health.
One of our favorite sayings in the clinic is “control what you can control.” If each individual is maximizing control over negative influences on swing mechanics, then they are minimizing the risk of failure or injury. Here are some things that you can control to reduce your injury risk.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help on your form: Bad habits die hard. Many golfers learned poor form from the beginning and still use the same (pain-inducing) golf swing because it’s what they’re used to. Don’t be afraid to check in with a golf pro or coach every now and again for an assessment of your swing.
Stop if you feel pain: It’s hard to give up a relaxing day of golf. But continuing to golf through pain can mean giving yourself an injury that will keep you off the course for weeks. If you feel pain when you swing, stop for the day and rest. If you keep feeling pain, consider seeing a physical therapist. PTs can evaluate you, figure out the root cause of your issue and help you eliminate the underlying problem.
Don’t forget cardio! Golf is an exercise and your performance can be affected by your cardiovascular health. Supplementing your golf with regular cardio exercise (2-3x/week for at least 30 minutes) can help to promote endurance so your 18th hole goes as well as your 1st!
Warm up and stay hydrated: Golfing requires the same preparation and recovery habits as any other exercise. Proper hydration, as well as an appropriate warm-up and cool down, are vital to minimizing injury risk. For more tips on warming up and avoiding injuries on the course Check out our best golf warm-up here!
- Learn more about Greg Doucette, MSPT, OCS
- Click here to learn more about what physical therapy is and what it can do to help you. If you are still not sure if physical therapy is what you need request an appointment to speak with a physical therapist about your concerns