Reduce your risk of injury with these golf tips

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118054483419686.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of‘, ‘This 1938 photograph by Harold Edgerton shows the full range of a golfer’s swing of his golf club.‘);

BLOOMINGTON, Minn.—In the Upper Midwest, golf is not a year-round sport. Over the winter, most golfers don’t take the time to stay in shape, and each spring must prepare for the stress golfing can place on their bodies—particularly their backs and torsos.

“The mechanics of a golf swing can result in a number of injuries to the lower back, the shoulder, the elbow or the wrist,” says Link Larson, DC, an associate professor at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minn. “A few simple, precautionary steps can avoid a longer-term injury that could take you out of the game for the season—or longer.”

Dr. Larson, in collaboration with Mark McKenzie, LAc, MaOM, dean of the Minnesota College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine; and Dale K. Healey, DC, dean of the School of Massage Therapy, offers the following tips for golfers:

Purchase equipment that fits and don’t try to adapt your swing to the wrong clubs. If you are using clubs designed for someone significantly taller or shorter, back trouble can result.

Purchase a good pair of golf shoes. Golf shoes will prevent you from slipping around on the grass, which may cause injury.

Get a massage before the golf season. “Massage can eliminate some of the tension that has built up over the winter,” says Dr. Healey. “It’s a good way to ease our bodies back into physical activity.”

Start slowly. Don’t rush out and golf 18 holes as soon as the ground thaws. Instead, hit a few practice balls to rebuild your strength and flexibility. Start with using short irons and work up to using longer clubs.

Warm up before each round. “Don’t just walk out on the course and start golfing,” says Dr. Larson. “Do some stretches first.” To set up a stretching and/or exercise routine, see a doctor of chiropractic or golf pro who can evaluate your areas of tension and flexibility.

Carry a first aid kit in your golf bag. Include bandages, sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, and bug spray.

Don’t grip the club too hard. “Conventional golf wisdom says to hold the club as though you have a bird in your hand,” says Dr. Larson. “That’s good advice. If you grip too hard, you may injure your hand, wrist or elbow, particularly if your club hits the ground.” Also consider wearing gloves to avoid getting blisters.

If you feel your back muscles are getting tight or uncomfortable, take a break on the next hole and do some stretches. “If the discomfort persists, discontinue playing and apply ice,” says Dr. Larson.

In addition to these tips, Dr. Larson urges golfers to consider preventive care for their spine and muscles. “Muscle tightness can be a symptom of a structural imbalance,” says Dr. Larson. “Consider seeking chiropractic care if you experience muscle soreness while golfing.” Additionally, massage therapy and acupuncture can help reduce muscle tension, which can improve a golfer’s range of motion.

McKenzie adds that in his experience, golfers who get acupuncture treatments on the day they plan to golf can see their scores lowered by a hidden benefit—relaxation.

“Acupuncture can not only increase your range of motion, but it can have a relaxing effect,” says McKenzie. “Golfers often play better when they are less stressed and more relaxed.”

For additional resources about golf, visit, a Web site focusing on natural approaches to health and wellness hosted by Northwestern Health Sciences University.

from the May 30-June 5, 2007, issue

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