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Ask The Expert: Golf Injuries

golfer swinging a golf ball

As the Official Hospital of The PGA of America, HSS is at the PGA Championship in Rochester, NY handing out pedometers and encouraging spectators to walk the Oak Hill Country Club course.

In honor of the PGA Championship, Dr. Joshua Dines, orthopedic surgeon, answers readers’ questions on golf injuries.

Q1. What is the most common injury you see from golfers?
The most common injury I see in golfers is elbow epicondylitis (inflammation of the tendons originating at the inner aspect of the elbow) which is also known as Golfer’s elbow. However, an equal amount of my golfing patients develop lateral epicondylitis, which is classically referred to as tennis elbow. Essentially, overuse of the tendons on either side of the forearm, which commonly occurs with people who play and/or practice golf frequently, can result in epicondylitis. Personally, I specialize in shoulder, elbow and knee problems so the injuries I see are skewed to these body parts. Low back pain is also an extremely common golf injury.

Q2. I notice pain in my elbow when I swing the golf club. Could the problem be my swing?
Pain in the elbow can be the result of the player’s swing. Poor swing mechanics can cause increased stresses at the elbow potentially resulting in elbow pain. That said, many players with excellent swings still develop elbow pain. Too many good swings, or overuse, may be just as likely to cause elbow pain as less swings with poor mechanics. Not only should one focus on good swing mechanics, but players also need to be smart with regards to not making too many swings.

Q3. Are there any common misconceptions about how golf injuries are caused?
Unfortunately, golf injuries occur secondarily to a variety of causes ranging from overuse to poor mechanics to improper equipment. It is very important that players recognize all of the potential causes of injury so that they can prevent them as best as possible.

Q4. I suffer from shoulder impingement but love golf. Do I have to stop playing or can I get by with modifications?
Shoulder impingement is a spectrum of pathology that typically involves rotator cuff tendonitis and bursitis. This condition often responds well to conservative treatment. In the mild stages, it isn’t unreasonable for one to continue playing with the help of some anti-inflammatory medications. However, if swinging a golf club is painful, rest and even an evaluation by a health professional would be prudent.

Q. How can golfers prevent shoulder injuries?
Golfers should focus on preventing shoulder injuries by stretching regularly. Rotator cuff strengthening and scapular stabilizing exercises should be done as part of your workout routine. Most importantly, golfers (like all athletes) must listen to their bodies. If your shoulder hurts, do not play through the pain. Rest and see a doctor.

Dr. Joshua Dines, sports medicine surgeonDr. Joshua Dines is an orthopedic surgeon and a member of the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at Hospital for Special Surgery. He is a team doctor for the U.S. Davis Cup tennis team, an assistant team physician for the New York Mets and a consultant for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Topics: Performance
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.