Ask Stephie: Golf, anyone? What you need to know to prevent injuries

The slow pace of golf would seem to make it a sport with little chance of getting an injury. However, studies show that is not the case. In fact, one study shows as many as one-third of the more than 25 million golfers in the U.S. sustain significant injuries of the back, spine, shoulders, elbows or wrists while playing the sport. Consider the following tips to help prevent injuries that could interfere with your golf game:

1. Warm up properly. A study in British Journal of Sports Medicine found nearly 46 percent of golfers don’t warm up—they just start playing. Those who do warm up usually perform little more than a few “air swings” before hitting the ball. Inadequate warm-up is a leading cause of injury.

Allow at least 5 minutes of aerobic warm-up activity—jogging in place, fast walking, etc.

Follow the aerobic warm-up with 5 to 10 minutes of gentle stretching—torso twists, chest stretches, leg stretches, etc. Include neck turns. Neck stiffness interferes with smooth body rotation during swings. Also, do stretches that target the hamstrings, such as lying down and lifting one leg up. Poor hamstring flexibility is a common cause of back pain.

Stretch one or two muscle groups at each hole while waiting for your turn—arm circles, shoulder shrugs/rolls, side stretch with club held overhead, etc.

2. Be aware when lifting. Golfers often get hurt before the first tee because they jerk their clubs out of the car trunk. Use your legs as well as your back when lifting the bag. On the course, pick up balls by kneeling or squatting down rather than bending.

3. Practice good balance and form. Most neck and shoulder stiffness occurs when players hunch over the ball excessively, with their neck and shoulders too far forward. Consider working with a golf pro to optimize your posture and stance when addressing the ball. You want to maintain a neutral spine position, without excessive bending or extension.

4. Limit your swing. Amateur golfers tend to “over swing”—using greater force than necessary. Instead, try shortening your swing a bit by ending the backswing at about the 1:00 position, instead of 3:00.

5. Strength train. Lifting weights to increase strength and endurance can significantly reduce the risk of golf injuries. Focus on strengthening the shoulders, upper back and “core” muscles in the abdomen and lower back. Consider working with a fitness professional to ensure correct form.

6. Check into graphite clubs. They have more “give” and generate less vibration and shock than clubs with steel shafts. This is important when you accidentally hit the ground during hard drives, a cause of wrist and elbow injuries.

Keep in mind that it’s not golf that causes injury, but the body that you take into golf. In addition to the above-mentioned suggestions, consider getting your posture evaluated by a qualified health or fitness professional. A misaligned body can spell trouble for any sport, including golf. Visit my Web site address listed below to find a past article about the importance of posture alignment. I hope you find these golf tips helpful.

Stephie Steele is owner of Symmetry Fitness, LLC. She has been featured in IDEA Health & Fitness Source magazine and specializes in weight loss, sports performance, total body fitness, posture alignment therapy, strength training, core conditioning, cardiovascular and flexibility training. Visit her Web site at or e-mail her with questions at

from the July 25-31, 2007, issue

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