Injuries in Golf
Injuries occur in all athletic events
quite frequently, certain sports more so than others. Golf
is no different than any other sport. The severity of injuries
in golf usually are not as severe as in other sports. The
scenario of a 300 lb. defensive lineman slamming into the
side of your knee tearing every possible ligament structure
in the knee will never happen in the sport of golf. An interesting
visual if you combined the sports of football and golf onto
the same playing field, but inappropriate for this paper.
There are two types of injuries classified by professionals
in the fields of athletic training and sports medicine. The
two types of injuries are: 1) acute and 2) chronic. The above
example of the football player is classified as an acute injury.
An acute injury can be defined as the trauma in the body occurring
immediately after the injury. Refer to the football player
example above for a reminder. (For us older golfers, remember
Joe Theisman of the Redskins and Lawrence Taylor’s leg breaking
tackle? Acute injury.) Relating an acute injury to golf is
a little more difficult. Probably the easiest, and maybe most
the common, acute injury in golf, occurs while swinging and
you hit a rock or something that creates an injury to your
wrist. That would be the best example in the sport of golf
of an acute injury. Overall, acute injuries tend to be rare
in golf because contact by the body with external forces is
My back is always killing me!
The second type of injury, chronic, is much more prevalent
when it comes to the sport of golf. A chronic injury is one
that occurs over time. Think of it as a “wear and tear” injury.
These are usually the result of the body breaking down over
time. A great sports example outside of golf is when you hear
about a baseball pitcher having tendonitis in the elbow. Tendonitis
is an inflammation of the elbow resulting from the stresses
placed upon it from throwing. Over time the elbow becomes
tired and eventually injured from the number of pitches thrown.
If you are a runner and, after a certain amount of time, your
knees begin to hurt, this is usually a chronic injury. When
we talk about golf, the majority of injuries are chronic.
They tend to be a direct result of the golf swing (just like
the pitcher’s elbow). Usually the chronic injuries in golf
show up in the lower back. If chronic injuries are caught
soon enough in the cycle, rest and proper treatment (i.e.
massage, chiropractic care) will heal them. But if you wait
too long the body is going to “break,” and then you will not
be playing any golf for a long time. This is where the unfortunate
situation of surgery and other invasive procedures are considered.
So a couple of questions we must ask when it comes to chronic
injuries in relation to golf are: how do they occur, and how
do we prevent them? Chronic injuries occur as a result of
the body becoming fatigued and eventually “breaking down.”
The muscles, ligaments, and tendons of your body are required
to perform the activity of swinging a golf club. Over time
this activity causes fatigue within your body. As the body
continues to fatigue, or get tired, the body gets sore. This
is the first indicator of a developing chronic injury. If
you continue with the activity you’re participating in, with
soreness in the body, eventually your body will break down.
This “break down” will be in the form of maybe a pulled muscle,
muscle stiffness, tightness, or some other type of inflammation.
All of the above examples are a result of structures in your
body breaking down from fatigue and overuse. Even if just
on one swing you feel “your back go out,” nine out of ten
times it is a chronic injury, and that last swing was the
“piece of straw that broke the camel’s back.”
How to Prevent Chronic Injuries in Golf
We all know that the golf swing is a repetitive movement,
meaning the body is performing the same activity over and
over again. This creates fatigue in the body over time. And
if over time our body can’t support the number of swings we
are taking, it is eventually going to break down. There are
three variables we have when it comes to the prevention of
chronic injuries in golf. Number one is workloads. Workloads
can be defined as the number of swings that the body takes
with a club over a given period of time. That time frame can
be seven days or an entire tour season. Number two is efficiency
of your mechanics. When we say “efficiency of mechanics” we
are talking about how biomechanically correct your individual
swing is. “Why is this important?” you ask. Let me tell you.
I think most of us would agree that the tour players have
very “efficient” swings; their swings are smooth and look
almost effortless. A swing like this asks less out of the
body to perform and requires less effort from the muscles;
hence fatiguing levels in the body are lower. Some amateur
swings look like they take a lot of work to perform, and in
reality they do! These types of swings ask a lot more out
of the body and fatigue it more quickly. The final variable
is what we term “golf strength.” Golf strength is a measure
of the required levels of flexibility, strength, endurance,
balance, and power to successfully support the mechanics of
the swing. Large amounts of golf strength allow the body to
support an efficient swing. Low levels of golf strength do
not provide the support needed for the swing.
Workloads, Swing Mechanics, and Golf Strength
All three of these variables work together to determine if
you are a candidate for a chronic golf injury. Golf strength
is essentially the foundation upon which your swing is built.
This variable indicates how many times you can swing a golf
club with your current mechanics before you come up injured.
If you have high levels of golf strength then regardless of
how efficient of a swing you have, you will be able to play
for quite awhile before you get sore. The flip side can also
be said. If you have low levels of golf strength, regardless
of your swing mechanics, you will come up sore in a shorter
amount of time.
Secondly, let us look at swing mechanics. If you are a player
that has a very efficient swing that places very little stress
on the body, you will undoubtedly be able to play many rounds
before your body starts screaming at you. Again, if you have
poor mechanics, it is going to take its toll on your body
and your game.
Finally, we have workloads (i.e. number of swings). The number
of swings one makes must match up with levels of golf strength
and swing mechanics. The golf swing is a “stressor” of the
body and breaks it down over time. If you have an efficient
swing, each swing does less “damage” to the body. If you have
a poor swing, the body has to work harder, thus fatiguing
it more quickly. In addition to this is golf strength. If
you have high levels of golf strength, you can swing the club
more (i.e. workloads) before you get tired. Low levels of
golf strength present the situation of the body’s fatiguing
more quickly. “So what is the magic formula?” you ask. My
first suggestion is twofold: 1) work on your swing to improve
the efficiency of it, and 2) increase your levels of golf
strength in order to support your swing. For the time being,
match up your swing and golf strength levels to determine
what workload levels you can get out of your body. If you
are in need of some more information on the golf strength
side of the equation, take a look at www.bioforcegolf.com.
About the Author
Sean Cochran is one of the most recognized golf fitness instructors
in the world today. He travels the PGA Tour regularly with
2005 PGA & 2004 Masters Champion Phil Mickelson. He has made
many of his golf tips, golf instruction and golf swing improvement
techniques available to amateur golfers on the website www.bioforcegolf.com.