Avoiding injury on the golf course

The game of golf requires a lot of physical coordination, and any golfer will tell you that a day on the course can take its toll on his or her body.

Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor of FoxNews.com, recently spoke with Dr. Bradford Parsons, an orthopedic surgeon at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, about some common golf injuries.

“The low back is really put at stress with golf, with the swinging and with carrying of bags and things like that,” Parsons said.

According to Parsons, golfers are prone to injuries in their arms and upper torso as well.

“You’ve probably heard of golfer’s elbow, which is an irritation of some muscles of the elbow,” Parsons said.  “When you grip things or try to rotate a swing, that could hurt.  And then the other area is the shoulder.  The shoulder is prone to injury during golf both with swinging again and carrying the bag.”

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between muscle pain and real joint damage, but Parsons said you may be able to distinguish the injury by how long it lasts.

“Usually muscular pain is going to go away in a few days or even a week or two,” Parsons said.  “So if you strain a muscle – like of the shoulder or the low back – those things will resolve with some rest, ice or heat and anti-inflammatories.”

With real joint damage, the pain is much longer lasting and much more intense.

“A significant injury to the joint, tendon – like to the rotator cuff or a disc in the back – it’s going to have more radiating pain down into the arm or the back of the leg.  And it’s not going to go away in a week or two, and it’s going to start bothering you at rest,” he added.

So golfers remember: If you feel soreness or pain, it’s time to put down the golf clubs and rest for a while.

“It's always hard to do when you're out with your buddies, having a great round, having fun,” Parsons said. “But if you tweak something, and if it's still bothering you after a few holes, it's probably prudent to take a little break, and hopefully you'll be back in a week or two, rather than missing the whole season.”

To further avoid injury, golfers should make time for a good warm-up and always stretch before they play.  Also, good posture and technique will help keep you injury-free and out on the course longer.