WEST ORANGE– While most recreational golfers think of the game as a low-impact sport, an estimated two-thirds of all players will be injured each year, a number that increases among those over the age of 50. The most common injuries include back pain, “golfer’s elbow,” shoulder and/or knee pain, tendonitis in the wrist, and carpal tunnel syndrome. The good news, however, is that proper exercise and conditioning can help prevent these season-limiting injuries.
“Most golf injuries are caused by poor body mechanics or a lack of conditioning,” explained Kris Westra, P.T., certified BacktoGolf® Fitness and Performance Specialist and coordinator of the Golf Performance Program at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (www.kessler-rehab.com). “Improper warm-up, limited strength and flexibility, and poor swing technique are also contributing factors. A golf-specific fitness program can not only help individuals avoid or minimize injury, but may actually help improve your game.”
Kessler’s Golf Performance Program focuses on conditioning, core strengthening and the biomechanics of the swing, as a complement to the instruction and training provided by golf professionals. The program offers a pro-active approach to injury prevention and also helps individuals return to the game following injury, illness or surgery.
A good conditioning program should combine aerobic, strength and flexibility training.
- Aerobic exercise: Spending hours on the course or practice range requires stamina. Thirty minutes of cardiovascular activity at least three to four times a week will sufficiently increase endurance levels. Walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling are excellent activities that work large muscles groups in the body and significantly improve heart and lung function.
- Strength training: The golf swing is a dynamic, physical movement involving many major muscle groups. Golfers should focus on strengthening the muscles in the lower back, hips, shoulders, and abdomen where much of the swing rotation occurs.
- Flexibility training: Greater flexibility helps the body move through the entire range of motion of the golf swing more easily and comfortably. A daily stretching program should incorporate the neck, back, shoulders, arms, and wrists. “It is equally important to stretch lower body muscle groups and joints, because an effective golf swing motion starts from the ground up,” notes Westra.
It is always important to check with your physician before beginning any exercise program or participation in athletic activity. Once cleared for play, golfers should follow the following general recommendations:
- Always warm-up – Before play, do a minimum 15-minute warm-up that includes a general cardio-vascular workout, as well as stretching and strengthening exercises for all muscle groups — hamstrings, calves, shoulders, torso and back.
- Maintain posture during play – Keep your back aligned.
- Always cool-down – After playing, stretch all muscle groups again.
- Move around the course – Using a golf cart may help to minimize stress on the knees, but be sure to walk around and stretch between holes to help keep muscles from tightening up. If you prefer to walk the course, avoid carrying a heavy golf bag; use a hand cart or ergonomically-designed bag instead.
- Take your time — Don’t rush your game and be sure to be well-rested before play.
- Don’t play through pain – Be examined by a physician to determine the exact cause of the pain, whether it’s a strain, sprain, overuse injury, arthritis or rotator cuff problems.
By working on conditioning and core strengthening, along with the biomechanics of their swing, golfers can raise their fitness levels and help to improve their game.
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