Ever been on vacation, played golf three days in a row, then couldn’t get out of bed the next morning because your back was on fire?

Ever gone to the driving range to fix your slice, tried a new swing tip and left with an aching elbow?

Ever swung at a ball next to a tree, hit a root beneath the ball and had a stabbing pain shoot through your wrist?

Congratulations, you’ve had a golf-related injury, which puts you in a group of about 18 million Americans. Golf injuries? I’m kidding, right? What’s a golf injury?

Poking yourself with a scorecard pencil? Foot blisters from that sand in your shoe? A sprained ankle from chasing the beverage cart?

A lot of people don’t even think golf is a sport. How can it have its own category of injuries?

Below is more evidence as to why exercising regularly is important.  Even the “easy” sports like golf, can be brutally demanding on the body.  It’s absolutely necessary to keep your body in top shape, to avoid some of these common injuries.  

Below is an interview done by Bill Pennington….

“Golf is actually a demanding athletic activity that puts tremendous stress on the body and has a high injury rate,” said Dr. Larry Foster, an orthopedist in Carmel, N.Y., whose book, “Dr. Divot’s Guide to Golf Injuries,” details ailments and how to prevent them.

About 60 percent of players have a golf-specific injury at some point, Foster said, and they can miss from five weeks to a year of activity.

“Nobody takes golf injuries seriously until they get one,” he said. “But they do when they can’t tie their shoes because of lower back pain or can’t shake hands because of a sore elbow or wrist. Maybe they can’t raise their arm above their shoulder or their knee is swollen. It’s a big, underappreciated problem.”

Dr. Vijay Vad, a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, wrote the book “Golf Rx” after he did a clinical study of PGA Tour players with bad backs. Now, nearly half the patients he sees — about 400 to 500 people annually — are golfers.

“People would be shocked to know how common golf injuries are, especially to the back,” Vad said. “It comes from overuse, it comes from bad technique and it comes from a lack of core fitness. The perception that you don’t need to stretch or prepare yourself for golf as you would another physical activity is maybe the biggest part of the equation.”

Medical professionals have been aware for some time that the torque and stress of the golf swing eventually lead many of the nation’s 29 million golfers to seek medical attention. In his book, Foster referred to 77 medical studies on golf injuries.

Some of the findings of his research:

¶Lower-back problems accounted for about 35 percent of all golf injuries, and elbow strains — essentially “tennis elbow” in a golfer — accounted for 33 percent.

¶Wrist and hand injuries, including fractures, often occur when players abruptly strike the ground or an object during a swing, and they represented 20 percent of the injury total. Shoulder problems (predominantly rotator cuff tears) accounted for 12 percent. Knee injuries, like tears to the meniscus, were 9 percent of the total.

¶A vast majority of elbow, wrist, hand and shoulder injuries were to the lead side of the body in the swing, which would be the left side for a right-handed golfer.

¶Women are just as susceptible to injury as men, although they have fewer back injuries. One theory is that men develop higher club velocity and rely more heavily on forceful trunk rotation during the downswing. In other words, they want to impress their friends with their distance off the tee and swing too hard.

O.K., so golf is good for you over all, but we may get hurt and miss a month of playing. What to do to stay healthy?

The golf docs have answers.

According to Vad’s PGA Tour study, lower-back problems might actually be caused by a lack of hip flexibility. Examining pro players, he discovered that those with less flexibility in their lead hip, the left hip in a right-handed golfer, had more back problems than those with limber hips.

Here’s how that makes sense: you have to swing a driver about 80 to 90 miles per hour, or 110 to 120 m.p.h. if you’re a pro, and you have to bring that high-speed swing to a stop in about a second. As Vad wrote, “Try asking your car to do that.”

Various shock absorbers in the body withstand the deceleration forces, but for those who are not very flexible in their hips, the forces tend to go to the lower back. Do it 100 times, or 300 times counting practice swings, and you’ve got a strained back.

Vad developed golf-specific exercises to help prevent injury and to add distance to your drives. They can be as simple as lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Then alternate bringing one knee to your chest. Another begins standing upright, with the feet shoulder-width apart. Twist to touch the fingertips of your right hand to your left ankle. Do the same with the left fingertips to the right ankle.

“Ten to 15 minutes of core exercises done two to three days a week can accomplish a lot for your golf swing,” Vad said. “Even leaning against a wall and stretching your hamstrings before you play will help. Drinking plenty of fluids can prevent a back injury.”

Dehydrated muscles are fatigued, which makes them more likely to strain and tear under the stress of a golf swing, Vad said.

Not to add insult to injury, but if you’re a hacker with a slice, you also are more likely to develop an elbow or wrist problem. Foster said that those injuries were often the byproduct of a swing in which the wrists release prematurely. Start the downswing with your wrists instead of your hips and shoulders, and not only will you be looking for that banana-ball shot in the woods, but you might also be trying to rub the tendinitis out of your leading elbow. Other observations from Foster: overuse causes a lot of problems, so don’t always reach for the jumbo bucket at the range; if your ball rests on a tree root or rock, move it and take the penalty stroke if you must, because trying to hit it is inviting injury; try to break a sweat before you play — jog, do jumping jacks or take a brisk walk.

“Look, I’m not a good golfer; if I break 100, that’s a good day,” Foster said. “I know how overwhelming the game can be. But I tell my patients that if they do the preventative things to engage in this very physically demanding activity, they won’t have to see me regularly — unless they see me hacking away on the golf course.”

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