Golf injuries: Why it pays to play it safe
It's been a few months since your last golf outing. You're at the first tee, shaking the rust off your golf swing. What better training, you think, than getting out there and playing? Don't take a swing just yet, though. While golf isn't a contact sport, it puts significant demands on your body — which can easily lead to golf injuries. Follow these tips to stay in shape on the course.
Adjust your swing
Understanding the mechanics behind your golf swing can help you prevent golf injuries:
- Use proper posture. Think about your posture before and during your swing. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and distribute your weight equally on both feet. Avoid hunching over the ball, which may contribute to neck and back strain.
- Stay smooth. The power of a golf swing comes from force transferred smoothly through all the muscle groups, from your ankles to your wrists. If you depend on one part of your body for your hitting power, you may be more prone to golf injuries. For example, overemphasizing your wrists during your swing can lead to golfer's elbow — a strain of the muscles on the inside of the forearm.
- Don't overswing. If you swing the club too hard or too fast, you may stress your joints. Relax and take a nice, easy swing at the ball. The best golfers have consistent — not necessarily fast — swing tempos.
If you want to reduce the risk of golf injuries, consider taking lessons. What you learn about your golf swing may even help you shave strokes from your score.
Other tips to keep you on the course
There's more to golf than your golf swing. Consider other ways to lower your risk of golf injuries:
- Warm up. Before you practice your golf swing or play a round of golf, warm up with a brisk walk or a set of jumping jacks. Stretch your hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders, spine and pelvis. Swing your golf club a few times, gradually increasing your range of motion.
- Start slowly. You might practice your swing for hours, believing it's helping your game — but if your body isn't conditioned for the strain, practicing your golf swing may do more harm than good. Work up to your desired level of activity instead.
- Strengthen your muscles. You don't need bulging muscles to hit a long drive — but the stronger your muscles, the greater your club speed. Better yet, stronger muscles are less prone to golf injuries. For best results, do strength training exercises year-round.
- Focus on flexibility. Regular stretching can improve your range of motion and lead to a more fluid golf swing.
- Develop endurance. Regular aerobic activity can give you staying power on the course. Try walking, jogging, bicycling or swimming.
- Lift your clubs carefully. If you jerk heavy clubs out of the trunk, you could injure yourself before you reach the first tee. Keep your back straight and use the strength of your legs to lift your clubs and other heavy objects.
- Choose proper footwear. Dress for comfort and protection from the elements. Wear golf shoes with short cleats. Long cleats dig into the sod and hold your feet planted as you swing, which may strain your knees or ankles.
While golfing, be careful to limit your sun exposure. Watch for signs and symptoms of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Red flags might include a headache, dizziness, nausea, a rapid heartbeat or confusion. Drink plenty of water, and cut your game short if necessary. Call it quits at the first sign of threatening skies or lightning.
Whether golf is a new interest or a lifelong passion, make the most of your time on the course by protecting yourself from golf injuries. Consider it all part of the game.
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