Golf (Care of the Young Athlete)

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In the past, golf was seen by many as a leisure
activity for people with extra time and money to spend. Today golf is seen as a
sport, and one that appeals to younger participants.

While golf is not thought of as a dangerous sport,
the long hours of practice and the physical demands of learning and playing the
game can lead to injuries. While not all injuries can be prevented, the risk of
injuries can be reduced.

The following is a chart from the American Academy
of Pediatrics of common golf injuries and an overview of symptoms and treatment.
Also included are diagrams of 2 exercises.

Common injuries, symptoms, and treatment

Golf injuries can be divided into those that
occur from swinging a club and those that occur from the miles of walking on a
golf course. To prevent injury, athletes must have an understanding of the
stresses golf puts on the body and must prepare their bodies to handle these

Most golf injuries develop over time rather than
as a result of a single event. It is important to recognize the early signs of
an injury and seek treatment before the condition gets worse.

Also, a general warm-up before practicing or
playing can help prevent injury. This should consist of exercises that increase
circulation to the muscles and stretch the shoulders, back, hips, and legs. It
also helps to take warm-up swings with a weighted club (or 2 clubs) and hit
practice shots when possible.


Rotational stretch and warm-up

This is a dynamic stretch for shoulders,
back, and hips and a good warm-up that can easily be done at the golf course
or practice range.

  • Stand while holding club behind
    upper back.

  • Rotate back and forth while keeping
    feet planted.

  • Try to feel stretch in shoulders,
    spine, and hips.

Hip/low back flexibility

This exercise improves flexibility in hips
and low back; increases rotation and ability to “turn” when
hitting ball.

  • Lie on back; cross legs.

  • Use top leg to push opposite knee to
    floor; keep shoulders flat and pelvis on the floor.

Injury/Cause Symptoms/Diagnosis Treatment/Prevention
Low back pain Repetitive bending and twisting
of the spine can cause compression and shearing forces on
lumbar discs; may lead to weakening of disc, disc
protrusion, or disc herniation.
(1) Pain, spasm in low back and buttock area; worse with
bending, twisting, lifting, and sitting; pain may run down
the thigh or leg. (2) Pain is less with standing, walking,
arching, or lying down. (3) Clinical evaluation, x-ray and
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be needed to confirm
(1) Limit bending, twisting, or any activity that increases
pain. (2) Use ice, nonsteroidal anti- inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs). (3) Increase flexibility in hamstrings, hip
flexors, hip rotators, and quadriceps. (See
“Exercises”.) (4) Do core stabilization
exercises with emphasis on oblique muscles and rotators of
hip/pelvis. (5) Resume play slowly as symptoms allow; start
with hitting short irons and build up to longer clubs.
Wrist pain Repetitive and forceful cocking and
twisting of the wrists that occurs during the normal golf
swing. These forces can cause strain to tendons, sprain to
the ligaments of the wrist joint, and/or compression to the
joint cartilage of the wrist.
(1) Pain, swelling, and stiffness usually felt in the
central part of the wrist; popping or clicking may also
occur. (2) Pain is usually worse with hitting longer clubs
(driver, long irons) or when hitting a “fat”
shot. (3) X-ray, MRI, and/or consultation with hand
specialist may be needed.
(1) Rest, ice, NSAIDs. (2) Do exercises to establish full
motion and strength in wrist. (3) Resume play slowly as
symptoms allow. (4) Surgery is rarely needed for wrist
problems that are recognized and treated early.
Knee pain: Torn meniscus Repetitive squatting,
twisting, and walking on uneven surfaces can result in
tearing of the cartilage between the femur (thigh bone) and
tibia (shin bone).
(1) Pain along sides or back of the knee; swelling,
restricted bending, locking or catching. (2) Symptoms are
worse with twisting, turning, and squatting. (3) MRI may be
needed to confirm diagnosis.
(1) Some meniscal tears heal by avoiding twisting,
squatting, or impact activity for 4 to 6 weeks. (2) If the
tear is extensive or doesn’t heal with rest,
arthroscopic surgery may be needed. (3) There are no
specific exercises that help with a meniscal tear. (4)
Golfers should avoid “pushing through” their
symptoms to prevent a small tear from becoming a bigger
Knee pain: Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFSS)
Compression and friction on cartilage behind the patella
(knee cap) can cause softening and thinning of patellar
(1) Gradual onset of pain in the front of the knee or around
the knee cap. (2) Symptoms are worse with walking up and
down hills and with squatting. (3) Swelling, locking, and/or
catching are rare. (4) Examination that addresses risk
factors such as foot and knee alignment, flexibility, and
strength balances in the lower extremity is needed.
(1) Limit squatting, walking on hills, and any activity that
increases symptoms. (2) Practicing on driving range and
putting should not adversely impact PFSS. (3) Use ice,
NSAIDs. (4) Increase flexibility in hamstrings, quadriceps,
and hip flexors. (5) Strengthen hip and knee muscles. (6)
Make sure shoes provide proper support and stability. (7)
Resume play slowly as symptoms allow.


Flexibility, strength, and overall fitness are
required to meet the physical demands of golf. Conditioning exercises to meet
these demands can improve golf performance as well as reduce injuries.