Can a leisure game like golf create health issues which are serious enough to keep you off the ground? A majority of golf players belong to the baby boomers category trying to enjoy their retired life in the company of the likes. Not many are however aware of the health benefits of this game. It improves cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health, and stamina, if played in the right way and right time. If the technique and equipment go wrong, it can do the reverse by putting you in pain so acute that you may have to restrain from playing for months.
So before joining a Golf Club, it is important to know how to choose the right equipment and how to hit a golf ball with the right techniques. The most common golf-related health problems are lower back pain, injuries to the wrist, elbow, shoulder, eye, and head. One of the consistent problems occurring in many golf players is Golfer’s elbow, medically called as medial epicondylitis. This article introduces you to many preventive steps for this medical condition, which have proven to be effective in many cases.
Learn about Golfer’s Elbow
Golfer’s elbow is an injury affecting the soft tissue in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the elbow joint and forearm controlling the movement. The injury is characterized by small tears called micro tears causing restriction of movement, inflammation, and pain in the joint. Scar tissue and calcium deposits are formed as a result of this, which if allowed to persist can cut off the blood flow to the forearm muscles by exerting excess pressure.
What Are Its Causes In Golf Players?
The main cause of this injury is overstraining of the forearm muscles repeatedly during golfing activities like flexing, gripping, and swinging of the golf club without adequate rest apart from injuries caused by accidents or direct hit. Injuries can also result from a bad position, an awkward motion of the wrists and arms during the game and use of an ill-fitted golf equipment or heavy golf club.
Injuries are also caused by the shock reaching the arm when the face of the golf club hits the surface or another object, also known as ‘hitting the ball fat’.
How To Self - Diagnose The Problem?
- Unbearable pain on the inside part of the upper forearm or the portion between wrist and elbow joint.
- Restriction to movement, stiffness, and weakness in the region near elbow and wrist.
- Difficulty in forming a fist, in gripping and for performing even simple actions like shake hand, picking a ball or hitting.
- Some people may experience numbness and tingle in the elbow.
- As per Mayo Clinic, symptoms of Golfer’s elbow may occur gradually or suddenly such as while swinging a golf club.
Look Out For The Following Risk Vactors
- Time spent in playing golf is directly proportional to the risk of injury. Professional golfers are at an increased risk. Amateur players should limit playing hours to at least six hours a day in order to prevent overuse injuries.
- Children should be supervised by an adult trainer.
- As any other game like polo, basketball, football, volleyball etc, a golf player is also at increased risk of injury if the technique is faulty.
- A golfer with a previous history of any injury should be very careful with the technique and timing.
Recovery And Medical Aids Required To Combat Golfer’s Elbow
- Ice pack
- Heating pad or wheat bag
- Anti-inflammatory and analgesic medication
- 1 to 2-pound hand weights or dumbbells
- Straps, elbow bandages, and braces
Quick Glance At The Steps For The Safety Of Golf Players
Whenever you experience a pain in the forearm, try to do a quick self-diagnosis and after first aid, consult a physician for an accurate diagnosis.
Immediately after getting an elbow injury or on experiencing acute pain, the treatment regime to be followed includes five phases of Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, and Referral to medical expert (R.I.C.E.R) regimen within 48 to 72 hours. This may be followed by:
- Physiotherapy exercises
- Heat application and massage will speed up the healing of injured soft muscle tissues.
- Rehabilitation Phase after the pain has subsided helps to gain the normal strength and flexibility of the muscles and tendons.
- For the prevention of the injury, take all the precautions regarding the game and health and look for early symptoms.
Primary Treatments For Injury
- On feeling pain on the wrists or elbow, immediately stop the action and analyze the reason.
- Apply ice wrapped in a cloth (to avoid direct contact) on the sprained site (elbow) for at least 15-20 minutes, three to four times a day. Alternatively, you can place heat pads to reduce pain.
- Avoid painful movements and activities which may flare up the pain and also take adequate rest.
- Strapping or using a splint around the forearm and wrist will help to prevent the injured tendon from getting pulled.
- If you have an injury, consider teeing up ball shots to avoid taking divots and take caution while trying to hit off of mats.
- Over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin, ibuprofen etc or topical gels and ointments may be prescribed by the doctor to reduce pain and swelling.
- Resume playing only after recovering completely from injury.
How To Manage The Pain In An Unavoidable Professional Game?
When you play, Wrap a compression bandage, strap or brace around the elbow. This isolates the forearm muscles, thereby reducing the strain on them while playing.
Apply ice on the inner portion of the elbow either wrapped in a towel or cloth for 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce inflammation. Use heat pads to reduce pain.
Kinetic chain exercise is a way to strengthen your muscles of the elbow and wrist. Hold a light-weight dumbbell (1-2 pound) in the hand with which you swing the club and practice swing holding by tightening the muscles of abdomen and back.
Based on experience, perform the following elbow exercise with dumbbell bar to reduce Golfer’s elbow
- Place a wheat bag or heat pad on the elbow for 10-15 minutes.
- Hold an empty dumbbell bar weighing between 1-2 pounds and do wrist curls by keeping palm up and back of the forearm resting on your leg. Repeat the procedure for at least 10 minutes.
- Now, face the palm downward by reversing the hand and do reverse wrist curls 10 times.
- Rest your arms on your leg, hold the dumbbell bar at one end and tilt it back and forth on both sides horizontally through 180°.
- Keep the bar aside and form a claw with your fingertips forming a circle with an elastic band wrapped around the outside of the fingers. Stretch the band by spreading the fingers and enlarging the circle for 10 times.
- Place an ice pack on the elbow.
You can take over-the-counter painkillers to reduce the condition. If it persists, physiotherapy is an alternate option under the guidance of an expert. The doctor may give you prescribed medications or cortisone shots to reduce the inflammation.
If you are prone to Golfer's elbow, place a forearm band below the elbow to dissipate forces during the game.
Avoid hitting diverted golf balls or those hit at the range if you are playing with an injury.
Prevention Is Always Better Than Cure
The first and foremost preventive action is an effective warming up before starting the game. By stretching and simple exercises focusing the elbow and forearm area, the stiffness in the muscles and tendons will be reduced. The blood flow to these regions will increase, thereby transporting more oxygen and nutrients.
Warming up also makes the muscles and tendons flexible and supple reducing the chances of sprains and strains due to overstretching.There are some preventative techniques which will help to prevent golfers elbow, including bracing and strapping, modifying equipment including gloves, shoes, socks, and clothing, taking extended rests and even learning new routines for repetitive activities. If you experience any aching after playing, apply ice.
Simple stretching exercises starting from head to toe:
- Move your head up and down, sideways and rotate in a clockwise and anti-clockwise direction at least 10 times.
- Rotate your shoulders in the upward and downward directions.
- Spread your arms sideways and rotate the wrists in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions.
- Bend your arms upward from the elbows in the front and side direction of the body.
- Rotate the hips, and ankles of each leg in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions.
- Stretch the entire body sideways from the hip both by keeping your legs straight and by lifting each leg. For example, stretch your right hand straight up, raise the left leg 90° straight on a support and move the raised hand towards the raised leg. Shift the sides.
- Move each leg forward, bend and apply pressure on the thighs with both the hands.
- Do brisk walking for a few minutes to raise your pulse rate.
Exercises To Strengthen And Condition The Forearm And Wrist Muscles
- Stand at a distance of one arm away from a wall.
- Place your palm on and towards the wall with fingers pointed down.
- Try to keep your hand flat, which you may find it difficult if your tendons are stiff.
- Remain in this position for 30 seconds and relax. Repeat for a couple of times.
- Strengthening exercises help to reduce weaknesses, stress, and strain in the upper body and increase strength and flexibility when you are not playing the game.
Cool down and relax for a few minutes after warming up exercises before finally joining the game.
Game Actions To Protect Your Forearm Muscles
- Pick up the right equipment for the game such as a golf club with the right grip and weight. Avoid clubs which are too heavy and with a large grip.
- One should aim at taking shorter practice sessions with intervals rather than taking long and tiring continuous single sessions.
- Practice swinging the club, starting with gentle half swings to full swings finally without actually hitting a ball.
- Maintain proper weight shift on your legs, hips, and trunk while playing to avoid putting over stress on the elbow due to poor kinetic linkage and power leaks.
- Grip the golf club correctly and swing it in the correct flat or elliptical angle by maintaining the right posture where hands are kept at shoulder height during transition and completion. You can also get professional help for the same.
- Widely placed grips help to reduce the impact on the wrists and the force and increased pressure on holding the club. Changing the grip position from time to time also helps in relieving the mounting strain.
- Avoid using stronger grips which lock the wrists and also flicking while hitting the ball, instead try to make a quick rolling of forearms timed with the ball impact.
- Regular stretching exercises while practicing the game can be done.
- Undue force while swinging should be avoided.
- Bend your knees when you pick balls and lean over by lifting one leg off the ground.
- Golf involves repeated swing movements using the wrists which are quick and forceful.
- Long games increase the strain to the elbows making them prone to injuries. Plan gradual increase in the duration and frequency of game.
Some Quick Tips
- When you recognize initial symptoms of golfer’s elbow, stop playing and give rest to your elbows until it heals completely. Resuming paying before recovering will aggravate the inflammation and pain.
- Always keep the emergency medical aid and recovery kit with you while going for a golf game.
- Make sure of your gaming posture and technique and use only the right equipment suiting you.
- Warming up and planned continuity are equally important to stay fit.
Stay in shape and remain fit when you play and when you rest. You can continue your game as long as you wish, just remember that anything in overdose can be detrimental.
This tutorial tries to cover the basics to keep you away from Golfer’s elbow-related injury forcing you to limit your gaming pleasure. If you find it helpful enough, please don’t forget it to share it with other golf lovers you know.