Barbara Kutch, PT
Putts and drives, backhands and serves. Sports like golf and tennis demand precision and power from your body.
However, they can also take a toll and leave you with nagging injuries that can hinder your performance.
Fortunately, physical therapy can help you get back into the swing of things. Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center (PMC) Princeton Rehabilitation offers sports specific rehabilitation programs, including for tennis and golf, to treat and prevent injuries and improve game performance.
Injuries Are Common
While golf and tennis are perceived as leisurely sports, both require repetitive motions and explosive power that can strain the body and lead to a range of injuries.
In fact, injuries are common. Up to 40.9% of amateur golfers get injured each year while playing golf, and the lifetime risk of a golf-related injury for amateurs is as high as 70%.
That’s according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, which also reports that thousands of people are treated for tennis-related injuries annually.
Golfer’s Elbow, Back Strain
The repeated swing of a golf club puts significant stress on the same parts of your body over and over again and can eventually lead to an overuse injury. Common golf injuries include:
- Golfer’s elbow. This injury involves inflammation of the tendons that attach to the inner side of the elbow. It often occurs due to repeated swinging and gripping motions in golf, leading to pain and tenderness on the inner side of the elbow.
- Rotator cuff strain. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. Golf swings can put strain on these structures, leading to injuries such as strains or tears. This can result in shoulder pain and limited range of motion.
- Back strain: The rotational and twisting motions involved in a golf swing can place stress on the lower back, leading to muscle strains or even herniated discs. Poor swing mechanics and improper posture can contribute to this type of injury.
Tennis Elbow, Knee Pain
Like golfers, tennis players are also susceptible to overuse injuries. Common tennis injuries include:
- Tennis elbow. Similar to golfer’s elbow, tennis elbow involves inflammation of the tendons on the outer side of the elbow. Repetitive motions, such as gripping the tennis racket and performing backhands, can lead to pain and discomfort on the outer side of the elbow.
- Tennis shoulder. Tennis involves overhead motions, such as serving and smashing, which can strain the shoulder joint and the muscles surrounding it. This can lead to shoulder impingement, rotator cuff injuries, and general shoulder discomfort.
- Knee injuries. Tennis players often make sudden lateral movements, which can stress the knees and lead to injuries like meniscus tears, ligament sprains (such as ACL tears), and patellar tendinitis. These injuries can result from the quick changes in direction and repetitive stress on the knee joints.
Get Back in the Game
Whether you’re a golfer or a tennis player, physical therapy can help you contend with overuse injuries.
At Princeton Rehabilitation, rehabilitation programs specifically for golf and tennis injuries are designed to improve and optimize physical performance by addressing flexibility, stability, endurance and conditioning.
Specially trained physical therapists also focus on correcting faulty mechanics during play and provide a thorough evaluation of your club or racquet swing.
Customized treatment plans address all areas that may impact your game and aim to:
- Optimize motion and decrease stress on the body during play.
- Encourage proper technique and focus on injury prevention.
- Reduce pain during or after playing.
Physical therapy at Princeton Rehabilitation is available for people of all ages and skill levels.
Tips to Avoid Injury
To avoid injury or re-injury on the greens or on the court keep these tips in mind:
- Warm up. Even before you start stretching, take a few minutes to warm up your body. Do a few jumping jacks. Jog in place. Hit a few balls. Warm up for about three to five minutes.
- Stretch. Once your body is warm, stretch slowly and gently. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and carefully release it.
- Dress appropriately. Wear shoes or sneakers that fit well and offer solid support. Choose comfortable clothing, wear a visor or a hat and don’t forget sunscreen.
- For golfers, lift and carry clubs carefully. When lifting your bag, keep your back straight and use the strength of your legs to lift.
- Focus on proper form. For tennis players, do not arch your back unnecessarily when serving or hitting overhead. Golfers, avoid hunching over the ball, which may contribute to back and neck strain.
- 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.
While injuries are common in golf and tennis, you don’t have to let them win. Physical therapy helps golfers and tennis players recover from injuries, prevent setbacks and ultimately keep them swinging and serving at the top of their game.
To find a physical therapist with Penn Medicine Princeton Health, call (609) 853-7840 or visit www.princetonhcs.org.
Barbara Kutch, PT, is physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist with Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center Princeton Rehabilitation. She is also certified by the Titleist Performance Institute.