Injuries in Golfers

By Amanda Wolfe

Like all athletes, golfers are susceptible to a lot of different injuries. Golf is a sport of precision, concentration, and focus. It involves constant repetitive motion. With every swing more force is being inflicted on the wrists, elbows, shoulders, back, hips, and knees. The same movement over and over will eventually cause trigger points, inflammation, restrictions, scar tissue, and more to develop if appropriate prevention is not taken. Self-care, regular exercise, stretching, and of course, regular massage is all excellent measures of prevention. Not only is massage a considerable part of injury prevention for golfers, but it is also beneficial in targeting and treating specific injuries. Golfers commonly suffer from back pain, rotator cuff injuries, golfers elbow, knee pain, and tendonitis in their wrists and other joints.

As mentioned above, back pain is a common complaint of regular golfers. Back pain comes from the poor posture in the sport, slouching over their golf club, and the rotation of the spine that is inevitable with every swing. An aching or pinching pain is very common in the low back, but there is also frequently burning or shooting pain in the upper back between the shoulder blades due to trigger points and tight muscles from the neck, shoulders, and upper back muscles. Back pain may be familiar, but is also one of the easiest to treat with good self-care and sports massage from a knowledgeable therapist.

Massage for low back tightness, trigger points, and pain always consists of first addressing inflammation, second addressing pain, and finally addressing functionality (range of motion, flexibility, mobility, strength, etc.). Any inflammation must be addressed first to avoid further damage. If a therapist finds any inflammation, it can be easily dealt with using cryotherapy and lymphatic massage. Once the inflammation is cleared up, then the therapist should decompress the muscles of the back, and begin addressing trigger points and restrictions that cause pain. These trigger points can be relieved with trigger point therapy, compression, soft tissue release techniques, and isometric stretching. These same techniques can be used to improve range of motion and mobility, along with active and passive stretching, deep tissue massage and targeting the musculature that surrounds the problem areas.

Rotator cuff injuries often stem from repetitive use, which is why golfers are so susceptible to them. Trigger points, tension, inflammation, scar tissue, and other types of restrictions build up over time eventually causing pain, nerve impingement or numbness, and an often extreme loss of range of motion. Most rotator cuff injuries are treated similarly to back injuries – first addressing inflammation and pain, then focusing on improving range of motion, flexibility, mobility, and strength. Tight muscles, trigger points, and scar tissue can be loosed and broken down using a lot of cross-fiber friction, soft tissue release, and trigger point therapy. Muscle tears can also be addressed by massage if they are minor. Major muscle tears that have been surgically repaired can require massage therapy later in the healing process to help break down scar tissue that limits the range of motion or causes pain.

Tennis elbow and golfers elbow are inflammation of the inner and outer tendons of the elbow, and tendonitis in the wrists are inflammation in the tendons of the wrist. Both of these can be treated by massage when they are in periods of remission. Acute tendonitis and golfers/tennis elbow will be aggravated and worsened by sports or deep tissue massage. When the inflammation begins to subside and the condition enters a more chronic stage massage therapy can be very helpful in treating minor inflammation, as well as loosening tendons and muscles. The muscles and tendons of the elbows and wrists become exacerbated with the constant use, but deep tissue massage, soft tissue release, and broadening compressions can significantly loosen tight muscles and help ease the tension that causes the inflammation to begin with. Soft tissue release involves compressing a problem area and stretching the muscle while holding the compression. This, along with deep, cross-fiber broadening strokes will help the athlete not experience as many stages of exacerbation. Of course, when flare-ups to happen it is up to the athlete to maintain self-care through wearing braces to limit movement, resting from their sport and any activities that aggravate it, as well as completing appropriate exercise and stretching techniques.

Golfers face many other injuries, but these three common issues are all serious and can be helped with massage therapy. If these conditions go untreated, it can lead to more severe problems and pain that can ruin the athletes’ career. It is essential for all athletes, especially golfers, to find a knowledgeable therapist that is well versed in sports and medical massage. It is vital that they can assess the state of your muscles to come up with a treatment plan is capable of quickly and efficiently eliminate pain and restrictions.

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