With the promise of longer days and warmer weather around the corner, we’re sure that if you’re a keen golfer, you’re looking forward to returning to the green.
However, before you dust off your clubs and pull out your polos, it’s essential to check in with your body and perfect your technique to avoid an injury that could leave you stuck on the sofa.
Believe it or not, golf-related injuries are so common that some say the sport is more dangerous than rugby, with up to 90% of professional players and almost 70% of amateurs suffering a golfing injury in their lifetime. And whilst short-term injuries can set you off course until you recover, aches and strains can also leave persistent mobility problems that could compromise your golf performance for good.
Still, although some knocks and scrapes are par for the course in the sports world (pun intended), many can be easily prevented — with the proper knowledge and support. So, where to start?
Whether you’re eager to stay fit and healthy ahead of the new season or want to overcome the physical barriers stopping you from upping your game, there are some key things you should focus on…
Avoid incorrect positioning
Although not all golfing-related injuries can be pinned on how you stand (uneven ground, golf carts and balls share some blame), most incidents come from improper positioning.
A stiff, rounded spine and hips, overextended lower back and overly bent knees all have the potential to cause serious problems, such as:
- An increased risk of slipped discs and facet joint problems.
- Tight hamstrings and painful inner knee joints.
- Tendinitis, including ‘golfers’ elbow’ or ‘tennis elbow’.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Ligament strains.
- Rotator cuff injuries.
- Stiffness or hypermobility.
All such injuries can have a domino effect on the rest of the body, resulting in long-term discomfort and a short, weak swing.
So, how do you achieve the correct positioning?
Your swing involves twisting your entire body, so flexibility and power through the pelvis, spine, shoulders and arms are crucial to keeping yourself out of trouble.
As a general rule of thumb, you can improve your positioning by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Your neck and spine should also be straight (no hunching!), your hips should be tilted and your arms should be fully extended and relaxed.
Use the right equipment
Suitable clothing and equipment don’t just make you look the part. When chosen carefully, they can help you stand properly, improve your stability and reduce the impact of the sport on your joints — resulting in a better (and safer) game.
Golf clubs are a good place to start. With the right club size, you can maintain the correct positioning for a reduced risk of injury and better golf performance. Most players simply choose whichever club feels comfortable for their height and arm length, so long as they can maintain a straight spine and extended arms.
Surprisingly, the golf ball itself also affects safety and performance. Soft golf balls afford better control, which can help reduce injury risk and provide greater accuracy — especially if you suffer from a stiff spine and reduced core strength. Harder golf balls are better for distance, which might be preferable for those with limited hip rotation.
Footwear is also incredibly important in ensuring correct positioning and optimum golfing performance. Though not always glamorous, well-fitted shoes with arch support help prevent ankle and knee pains and strains, making them a must-have for golfers.
Of course, having the right kit will only get you so far.
For the best results, players should take a fitness-focused approach to their preparations to ensure they’re both strong and flexible enough to hit the green — whether they’ve already sustained an injury or want to prevent one.
However, you’ll need to make sure you’re doing the right exercises (in the right way) to improve joint range of motion and strengthen the necessary muscles to avoid making anything worse.
Book an appointment with an osteopath
Keen to rid yourself of that golfer’s elbow or improve your swing all around? It might be time to enlist the support of a trained osteopath.
Osteopaths examine the role of muscles and joints in overall bodily health — diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal injuries and discomfort to improve general well-being.
Sports osteopaths can take the guesswork out of your fitness regime, providing safe, effective ways to achieve your goals. By evaluating the way you use your body, providing hands-on treatment and offering a tailored regime to help you improve your flexibility, these qualified professionals can correct your positioning and improve your golf performance.
For example, if lower back pain is stopping you from enjoying your game or achieving the handicap you desire, a good sports osteopath can assess your pelvic and spinal function and treat areas of stiffness or overuse to optimise your movement.
If you’ve sustained a more serious injury, the right sports osteopath can also provide a bespoke strength and rehabilitation programme to get you on the mend and back on the course (and out of the rough) in no time.
We might be biased, but we highly recommend our resident sports osteopath Tom Nottingham. Tom combines specialised massage, mobilisation and stretching techniques with personalised exercise guidance to lay a strong foundation for recovery and well-being — whatever your goals may be.
Tom also works closely with Jacob Dane, our strength and rehabilitation coach, who provides a tailored one-to-one exercise assessment and coaching programme to guide patients to a stronger, more flexible body built for peak performance.