Hitting the links this weekend? Pay attention to your grip, because using an improper golf grip could cause nerve damage to your hand.

That’s what happened to a 62-year-old male amateur golfer who had muscle weakness and loss of sensation in his left hand for two months. Experts at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., detected nerve damage in the hand.

The problem, say the doctors, was an improper golf grip. The right-handed golfer had been applying pressure from the end of the club to an area between the two small bones of the wrist — a passageway in his left hand called Guyon’s canal — that contains the ulnar nerve.

This nerve runs down the inside of the arm and elbow, and it's what tingles when you hit your funny bone. It controls strength in most of the hand and provides sensation to the pinky and ring fingers.

Testing confirmed muscle and nerve damage in the man, but the hand looked normal in MRI images.

Doctors told the man to stop playing golf for a while. He ignored that advice, modifying his grip to see if the problem would go away. It did, and the man is still playing golf with no problems.

The case was reported at the annual meeting of the American Association of Electrodiagnostic Medicine by the Mayo Clinic team, which included neurologist Kevin Boylan, MD.

Most golfers are unaware of this hazard, say Boylan and colleagues, who also want to make neuromuscular specialists aware of the problem.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: American Association of Electrodiagnostic Medicine, Savannah, Ga, Nov. 3-6, 2004. News release, American Association of Electrodiagnostic Medicine.