By John Xenos, MD | Fellowship Trained Orthopedic Surgeon
The Sky Ridge Spine & Total Joint Center
Golf is more than a hobby, it is a great way to get outside and stay fit. It involves every muscle of your body, moving with the golf club as your body rotates to make contact with the ball. As with any physical activity, without injury prevention or proper treatment for injuries, a golfer can be off the course for good.
Here are the top three injuries from which golfers can suffer and ways to prevent them:
- Back pain: Back pain is the most common injury in golf, as the back curves with the movement of the club. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, muscle spasms and sometimes nerve irritation in the legs. To avoid this injury, golfers should squat when picking up or placing a golf ball, use a longer putter, slow down their backswing to minimize the force of movement on the lower back, and make sure to shift body weight to the appropriate foot during the backswing. If your back still aches after a day on the course, it’s best to lay down on the couch with a heating pad. Aspirin can be used to manage discomfort. If golfers experience pain after X days, visit a doctor.
- Golfer’s elbow: Known in medical circles as medial epicondylitis, golfer’s elbow is an inflammation of the elbow that results from bending the elbow too much. This occurs in golfers who hold their golf club too tightly and swing too hard or quickly at the ball, causing pain in the tendons of the elbow. Golfers feel pain and tenderness on the outer side of the left elbow and inner side of the right elbow, with the greatest pain occurring at the backswing and impact of the club with the ball. The best way to prevent this injury is with a more fluid swing. Move the club slowly on the backswing and then move the club in a continuous movement downward towards the ball. Another method is to ease up your grip on the club during the swing–without letting go. Treatment for this type of injury is rest, a hand brace, medication or cortisone. A physician can provide the brace, medication or cortisone shots if necessary. If pain persists past several days, golfers should seek medical attention from their doctor.
- Hand and wrist: The hand and wrist tie for the third most common injury among golfers. As the hands are crucial to the grip of the club and the wrist necessary to the “snap” of the swing, overuse or a traumatic blow can cause serious injury. Of the many injuries players suffer; the most common in the hand/wrist area is tendonitis. Tendonitis is the inflammation of tendons that cut across the wrist, causing pain to radiate from the wrist to the hand. To help prevent tendonitis, players should ensure their clubs properly fit their height and hand size and perform warm-up exercises before hitting the ball. Players should also immediately stop play if any pain starts in the wrist. To treat tendonitis, wrap ice around the area and take an anti-inflammatory like Advil or Aleve.
There are other injuries golfers can experience on the course but taking these steps to prevent the most common injuries will keep a player on the course longer and healthier in the process.
Dr. John Xenos is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and earned his medical degree from the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. He completed his residency in orthopaedic surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He then served as the Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery at Fort Benning Georgia where he was directly involved in the treatment of the 75th Ranger Regiment as well as other infantry units. Dr. Xenos followed his passion for joint replacement and completed a fellowship in adult reconstructive surgery at the Anderson Orthopaedic Research Institute in Virginia. He then returned to Walter Reed as the Director of Adult Reconstruction, where he attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Medical Corps.
Dr. Xenos’ clinical interests include hip, knee and shoulder replacement as well as arthroscopic surgery of the hip. His research interests include biomechanical testing, clinical studies in hip and knee replacement, patient activity levels after joint replacement, diagnosis and treatment outcomes of hip labral pathology and femoral acetabular impingement. Dr. Xenos has presented his research at both national and international venues. His research has also resulted in numerous publications in such journals as the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and has earned several awards including the prestigious Founders Award presented by the Eastern Orthopaedic Association.