The risk of sustaining an injury when playing golf is higher than you may think. A study by the National Health Statistics Report suggested that golf is more dangerous than rugby, according to injury rates per 1,000 people. Another study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that up to 7 in 10 amateur golfers will suffer an injury at least once during their lifetime.
Whilst some golf injuries are unavoidable, there are various steps you can take to try and avoid being one of that 7 in 10. Prioritising your strength and stability and conducting a thorough warm-up routine is paramount, as we’ll cover further down in this article.
We narrow down the 5 most common golf injuries and explain how to give yourself the best chance of preventing them. Carrying out the steps we recommend will not only help you stay pain-free, but also make you a better golfer.
Table of contents
- Lower back pain
- Golfer’s elbow
- Wrist injury
- Shoulder pain
- Knee pain
- How to treat common golf injuries
- Specialist golf insurance from Insure4Sport Golf
Lower back pain
Injuries to the spine and lower back are the most common among amateur golfers. The British Journal of Sports Medicine study, referenced above, found that, on average, 27% of amateur golfers suffer this type of injury.
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that improper swing technique is one of the chief causes of lower back pain among golfers. If your swing is too rough or forceful, it can not only lead to muscle strains but also put considerable pressure on the spine’s ligaments and discs. When you consider that spinal mobility decreases as we get older, it’s little wonder that lower back pain is a particularly common injury among senior golfers.
So, what can you do to avoid this unpleasant injury?
How to prevent this golf injury
You can take several preventative measures to lessen the risk of lower back pain when playing golf.
Warm up and down before playing
Warming up before a round increases the blood flow to your muscles and loosens them, making them less susceptible to tears. It also improves your flexibility, meaning your range of motion is less restricted during the swing.
Cooling down is equally important. It allows you to clear out the lactic acid that’s built up in your system while you’ve been playing, which is important as lactic acid build-up can result in muscular pain and fatigue. It also reduces Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which can significantly reduce your range of motion and cause severe stiffness.
Focus on your swing technique
Even with thorough warm-up and cool-down routines, you still risk injuring your spine and lower back if your swing technique is incorrect. You want your swing to be smooth and controlled, not to hit the ball as hard as possible and overexert your back.
Balance is another important factor – you can give yourself optimal balance by bending the knees and keeping your feet shoulder-width apart. Weight distribution is also important, as is hip rotation, which is covered in the below video.
Work on your upper-body strength away from the course
Core strength is vital if you want to not only maximise your performance on the golf course but also avoid persistent injuries further down the line. That’s why being a gym member and following a tailored workout programme that targets the lower back will give you a distinct advantage when trying to lessen the risk of injury. If you’re not a gym member, there are still plenty of exercises you can do at home to strengthen your lower back (as shown below).
When an injury is named after a specific sport, it’s clearly a common issue for players of that sport. Golfer’s elbow is a form of tendonitis that causes inflammation in the tendons that surround your elbow.
When you get golfer’s elbow, you’ll most likely experience:
- Tenderness and pain on the inside of your elbow (in the bony part)
- Trouble swinging a golf club
- Difficulty when lifting or bending your arm
- Discomfort during twisting movements
- Trouble making a fist
Depending on its severity, the pain caused by this injury can also spread to your hands and wrists.
Due to the technique involved in playing golf, you can see why this injury affects golfers in particular.
How to prevent this golf injury
Some of the steps to avoid golfer’s elbow are self-explanatory, while some require doing your research and preparation before taking to the course. Here’s how to prevent golfer’s elbow.
Strengthen your forearm muscles
As with every tip in this article, optimising your strength in the areas of the body that you use to play golf is essential for avoiding injury. Therefore, you need to strengthen and stretch the flexors in your forearm by carrying out various stretching exercises before and after taking to the course.
Practise your grip
If you grip your club too strongly, it can lead to golfer’s elbow. That’s why it’s important to strike a balance and apply the right amount of pressure. On a scale of one to 10, your grip pressure should be a five or six.
Choose your equipment carefully
Switching to graphite iron shafts can often alleviate or avoid elbow pain. If you use older golfing irons, you might therefore want to consider replacing them. You may also want to invest in an elbow compression sleeve. This prevents the wrist’s extensor muscles from contracting fully and reduces the strain on the elbow’s tendons.
Golf-related wrist injuries come in various forms and are more prevalent than some may realise.
Another BMJ study found that nearly one in three respondents reported having suffered a wrist injury while playing golf. Most of these injuries were reported to have occurred in the leading wrist, in the ulnar (or little finger) side of the wrist.
This type of injury is typically caused by poorly fitting golf clubs and improper swing technique among other factors (we covered both of these issues in the previous section).
Wrist sprains are another common injury caused by playing golf. All that needs to happen is for you to strike a rock or tree root (like Tiger Woods did at the 2015 Masters), and you could be the latest victim of this painful injury.
Let’s look at how you can help to avoid golf-related wrist pain altogether.
How to avoid this golf injury
Work on strength and conditioning
You may find this message a little repetitive now, but we can’t emphasise enough the importance of stretching every vulnerable part of your body before and after playing golf. We get claims relating to tendon injuries and the like all the time, so we know how common they are.
As the ulnar side of the wrist is a particularly vulnerable area, you can protect it by carrying out a range of stretches. There are many other exercises you can do in addition to this, such as those demonstrated in the below video.
Refine your technique
Again, this is another pointer we’ve alluded to already, but good technique is so important, especially if you’re hitting a ball out of the rough. If even Tiger Woods can get it wrong sometimes, you can too. If you need to be subtle to avoid a sprain, then so be it.
You might want to get further instruction from a professional coach if you’re looking to refine your swing technique – possibly because you’re new to golf or haven’t played in a while.
Graphite is your friend
We mentioned clubs with graphite shafts above, and they provide a multitude of benefits in terms of avoiding injury. For example, when you strike the ball, graphite absorbs the resulting vibration better than steel. This reduces the amount of stress placed on your wrists and in turn lessens the likelihood of a serious injury in this area.
No golf injury is pleasant, but this one is perhaps the most unpleasant of them all. You use your shoulder to lift and lower your arm, so if you get a bad injury in this area, you’ll know about it.
Shoulder injuries when playing golf tend to be restricted to the lead shoulder, which is the left shoulder if you’re a right-handed golfer. Whichever is your lead shoulder, it’s vulnerable to injury due to the external rotation involved in the backswing.
That’s why the rotator cuff – the group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint – can tear when playing golf. The intense and repetitive motions involved in a golf swing place a great deal of stress on the rotator cuff.
Other common golf-related shoulder injuries include osteoarthritis (particularly among older golfers) and shoulder impingement, and joint instability.
Whichever form of shoulder pain you look at, it severely restricts not only your ability to play golf, but also to perform daily tasks.
How to avoid this golf injury
The tips for avoiding a shoulder injury are similar to those above. Here’s a quick rundown of how these tips apply to this specific part of the body.
Use the correct club
In this context, we mean you need to use the right club for your height. This will help you hit the ball consistently and reduce the risk of injury. This article gives you a guide as to what length your club should be, depending on your height.
Use the right technique
To protect the shoulder, you need to turn the body away correctly and fully on the backswing. You also need to keep your feet shoulder-width apart and make sure your spine is straight. The below video offers some great insights on how to avoid shoulder impingement by concentrating on your swing.
Stretch the shoulders before and after playing
These are some of the best stretches you can carry out to keep the shoulders supple for playing golf.
Knee pain is one of the most common types of lower body golf injury. This study found that up to 18% of all golfers have experienced a golf-related knee injury at some point.
Such an injury is often caused by restricted rotation of the hip at the beginning of a swing. If your hip is restricted in rotation due to weak stabiliser muscles, your body may over-rely on the knee to rotate when you swing for the ball. Over time, you’re placing repetitive and excessive stress on the knee’s joints, which could lead to painful injuries further down the line. This is why older golfers are more vulnerable to knee pain than younger golfers.
The most common form of knee injury among golfers is a meniscal tear. This injury is caused by a sudden twisting movement when placing stress on the knee. When you suffer this injury, you’ll experience a clicking sensation in the knee when bending or squatting. Other common knee injuries among golfers include osteoarthritis, torn ligaments, and soft tissue damage.
How to avoid this golf injury
Avoiding knee pain once again boils down to your flexibility, strength, technique, and body mechanics. If you don’t address these key areas, you could be susceptible to knee pain when playing golf.
Carry out knee and hip-strengthening exercises
Weak knees and poor hip rotation due to weak stabilisers are the chief causes of knee pain, as we’ve covered above. With that in mind, there are some knee and hip-strengthening exercises you can perform at home every so often to minimise the chances of you suffering a nasty injury.
This article includes some great exercises, as does the below video from HansenFitnessForGolf.
Practise your body mechanics
As with the other injuries mentioned in this article, knee injuries are also caused by poor body mechanics. Having a sound understanding of the correct body position is therefore vital.
To cite a couple of examples from this article:
- Turn your feet out slightly when swinging to restrict how much you pivot, especially on your lead leg. Doing this will reduce the amount of stress you place on your knee.
- Maintain an upright stance to reduce the amount of bending in the knees when swinging the club, as this will decrease the potential for knee pain.
These are just two examples of proper body mechanics – click the link above for more handy tips.
How to treat common golf injuries
Of course, even by taking the above precautionary measures, there’s still the risk that you could injure yourself while playing golf.
If you suffer one of the above injuries, here are some helpful videos on how you can treat them.
How to treat lower back pain
How to treat golfer’s elbow
How to treat wrist injury
How to treat shoulder pain
How to treat knee pain
To recap what we’ve said
When you read about these common golf injuries, it’s clear that, although most of them can’t be avoided completely, they are often caused – or worsened – by improper technique, equipment, and body mechanics. That’s why consulting YouTube and Google or enlisting the help of a professional is so important. If you Google “golf professional near me”, loads of relevant results will come up. These pros could be the difference between you suffering a bad injury when playing golf or avoiding it altogether.
We’re not just talking about avoiding golf injuries here – we’re also trying to help you prolong your playing career. Having a strong and flexible body will help you play well into retirement age and beyond, and help you avoid long spells on the sidelines.
Specialist golf insurance from Insure4Sport Golf
Of course, it’s not just injury you need to think about when you’re on the golf course. There’s also the risk of your equipment being stolen, or of you injuring another golfer with a wayward shot.
That’s why you need specialist golf insurance. At Insure4Sport Golf, we provide:
- Equipment cover to protect your clubs and accessories against theft, loss, and damage, both whilst you’re travelling to the course and back and during a round.
- Up to £5 million of Public Liability if you injure another golfer or damage third-party property while playing golf.
Find out more about our golf insurance and get an instant quote to suit your needs here.