Golf is one of the most common recreational sports played in America, with over 25 million people participating each year. It even appeals to the younger generations with over 6 million millennials taking to the fairways. As we near the completion of The Masters, however, it’s time we talk about the dark side of the golf – the injuries.
Achieving the perfect swing can be pretty awkward, however, as the movements required can be executed poorly and lead to back injuries. Injuries from golf are far reaching, with 36% of novice players reporting back pain and a staggering 63% in serious players.
2 PRIMARY CAUSES OF BACK PAIN WHILE GOLFING
The primary cause of back pain among golf players is the repetitive movement and asymmetric nature of a golf swing. There’s a lot to think about when swinging a golf club – keep your arms straight, bend the elbow, rotate your back, mind the wrist action – it’s easy to make a mistake when you’re tired and on the 50th stroke. Some of these mistakes include:
- ‘Over-swinging’ – the spine is twisted and weight is distributed awkwardly so failure to have a smooth, natural swing results in increased strain on the lumbar spine
- Rounding the back – depending on the number of holes, golfers can spend hours hunched over their clubs or staring at the hole
5 EASY TIPS TO PREVENT OR REDUCE BACK PAIN FROM THE GAME:
- Warm up properly. Studies show that most golfers have inadequate warm ups. Make sure to stretch and hit practice balls before you hit the links.
- Improve your swing mechanics. Don’t try to hit as hard as possible when you step up to the tee. Not only does this cause errant ball placement, but the unnatural effort increase the chance of a back injury.
- Maintain neutral spine positioning. When leaning over the ball before swinging, keep your spine in its relaxed position of comfort and bend with your hips and knees.
- Stretch your spine and joints. Studies have shown that golfers who have stiffer back rotation and less joint range of motion have more back pain. This is because stiff players are forcing their bodies to move past the comfort zone, rather than using smooth, fluid motions. Anytime you feel yourself pushing too hard, you probably are.
- Strengthen your core and give yourself needed rest. Golf requires serious stamina. The majority of back injuries from swinging are due to overuse, so the stronger your core, the more able you are to do repetitive swing. In the same line of thinking, don’t push yourself too hard. Resist the temptation to play the back nine if you’re tired after the front.
If you are experiencing disabling back or neck pain, numbness or tingling in the arms or legs, or feel a pop in your spine, make sure you seek evaluation by a spinal specialist.
Dr. Colin Haines is a board certified spine surgeon and the Director of Research at Virginia Spine Institute. Dr. Haines performed the world’s first combined endoscopic and robot-guided spine surgery. His patient success has earned him a national feature on The Today Show and WebMD, and Top Doctor recognition in consecutive years. Learn more about Dr. Haines.