A pain in the golf

Wrist injuries are common amongst both amateur and professional golfers, reveals Jane Banting. So how can you prevent your game becoming a real pain?

Golf-related wrist injuries arise because, although golf is a non-contact sport, the interaction between the body and the golf club means large forces pass through both wrist joints on a repetitive basis. Professional golfers who admit wrist pain has affected their game this year include Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington – in fact Harrington nearly withdrew from the 2008 British Open, before going on to win. So if you find yourself wincing when you tee off, you’re in good company.

Risk factors
The main risk factors for developing golf-related wrist pain are poor preparation (insufficient warm-up, incorrect grip size), poor technique (how you address the ball, your swing)and sudden increase in golf activity. Older players can also be affected by age-related degeneration in joints and muscles, particularly if regular fitness is not maintained.

Wrist injuries
Tendonitis, primarily an overuse injury, is the most common wrist injury for golfers. It involves inflammation of the tendons of the wrist below the thumb, the flexor tendons of the wrist/elbow or the extensor tendons of the wrist/elbow.
Other wrist injuries can include tearing of the triangular fibro- cartilage on the outer side of the wrist joint or, more rarely, a fracture of the hook of the hamate bone in the wrist.

Reducing the risks
To reduce injury risk, adopt good golf practices such as:
– warm-up stretching of the spine, shoulders, elbows, wristsand upper-limb nerves
– strengthening the ‘core’ abdominal muscles and shoulders, elbows and wrists
– using the rubber tees at the driving range when practising, to reduce heavy impact
– varying the length of shot in practice
– when playing, avoiding contact with immovable structures such as tree roots which can result in shanking your shot
– having a lesson with the club professional. Get them to check your grip size, hand position and posture when addressing the ball and to review your swing carefully, preferably using video. Efficient weight transfer is essential.

When to seek help
If you notice ongoing wrist pain or a weak grip when golfing, seek the help of a health practitioner. Some physiotherapy
practices specialise in golf injuries, and your local physio sees these injuries often. Treatment may include ice, ultrasound, massage, stretching and strengthening of tendons/muscles and strapping of the affected area or use of a brace. You may also need to reduce the amount of golf you play, or even take a complete break for a short period. If the injury persists, a medical opinion will be needed, and a cortisone injection under x-ray control or surgical management may be required.

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