Barbara Kutch, P.T., D.P.T, C.S.C.S.
With golf generally considered a safe and healthy outdoor activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of people have taken to the course.
According to the National Golf Foundation, play was up more than 6% nationally – the equivalent of about 2.4 million more rounds than in May 2019.
However, hitting a golf ball with distance and accuracy isn’t as easy as the pros make it look.
Not to mention that if you have an injury or are in pain, it can really affect your game.
Whether you have a new injury, balance issues or a chronic condition such as back pain, the Golf Rehabilitation program at Princeton Rehabilitation can help you recover so that you can get back into the swing of the things.
A Complex Sequence of Movements
Swinging a golf club requires a complex sequence of movements that involve your entire body.
Different parts – from your feet to your head – have to move in specific ways for you to achieve the maximum club head speed and ball distance. And they have to move smoothly through a full range of motion.
Pain or other limitations because of injury or surgery, such as joint replacement, can restrict your movement and range of motion and throw off your swing.
Moreover, though golf is a low-impact sport, injuries are not uncommon.
In fact, more than 131,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors offices and clinics for golf-related injuries in 2015, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
Low back pain is one of the most common complaints among golfers, and is often caused by poor swing. The rotational stresses of a golf swing can place considerable pressure on the spine and muscles. Additionally, poor flexibility and poor muscle strength can cause minor strains that over time can lead to serious injuries.
Other common golf-related injuries include:
• Golfer’s elbow. Golfer’s elbow is an inflammation of the tendons that attach your forearm muscles to the inside of the bone at your elbow. These muscles and tendons can become damaged from overuse, leading to pain and tenderness.
• Rotator cuff tendonitis. Repetitive motion can cause the rotator cuff tendons to become irritated or damaged, leading to pain, stiffness, and limited movement.
• Wrist tendonitis or sprains. Wrist tendonitis typically occurs in the leading hand and will cause pain, tenderness and swelling.
• Plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is characterized by heel or foot pain caused by the weakening of the plantar fascia, the strong band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot. Over-extension (twisting the feet inward too much) and ill-fitting golf shoes are the main culprits.
To prevent injury:
• Maintain proper posture. Avoid hunching over the ball, which may contribute to back and neck strain. Stand with your spine straight and your hips tilted forward. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and rotated slightly outward. Your knees should be slightly bent.
• Don’t overswing. Swinging the club too hard or too fast may stress your joints.
• Warm up. Adopt a specific routine of stretching and flexibility exercises before each round. Hit some balls before a game, starting with the wedge and gradually working up to the driver.
• Maintain a good base of physical fitness. Stronger and more flexible muscles are less injury prone. Your exercise program should include stretching and strength training as well as regular aerobic activity to keep up your endurance for the course.
• Lift and carry clubs carefully. When lifting your bag, use proper lifting technique. Keep your back straight and use the strength of your legs to lift.
• Choose proper footwear. Wear well-fitting golf shoes that have short cleats. Short cleats can help prevent strain on you knees and ankles.
Whether you have suffered a golf-related or other type of injury, are recovering from surgery or dealing with chronic pain, the Golf Rehabilitation program at Princeton Rehabilitation can help you get back on par and perform at your optimal level.
The program is open to men and women of all ages and skill levels, and is staffed by specially trained golf rehabilitation therapists certified by the Titleist Performance Institute. Patients–with a prescription from their doctor–receive a personalized evaluation that includes:
• An assessment using leading edge 3D computerized biofeedback technology that measures body motion to help correct poor technique, promote a more efficient swing, and prevent injury.
• A comprehensive physical therapy examination.
• An overall strength and flexibility assessment.
Customized treatment plans address all areas that may impact a golfer’s game and aim to:
• Optimize motion and decrease stress on the body during the swing and follow-through.
• Encourage proper technique and focus on injury prevention.
• Reduce pain during or after playing.
Princeton Rehabilitation is currently treating patients in-person and via telehealth. Every precaution is being taken to ensure the safety of patients and staff. All staff and patients are screened prior to entering the building, face masks are required, patients are seen one-on-one, physical distancing is maintained in waiting areas, and all equipment is sanitized and disinfected between each patient.
To learn more about the Golf Rehabilitation program, visit princetonhcs.org or call 609-853-7830.
Barbara Kutch, P.T., D.P.T, C.S.C.S., is physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist with Princeton Rehabilitation. She has also earned the Titleist Performance Institute Level 3 Medical certification, which is the highest credential offered by the institution.