Believe it or not, with Fall right around the corner, the Winter weather will be here before we know it. This means the grass is slowing in its growth and the mats are coming out on the driving range. This also means the onslaught of arm injuries in juniors and adult golfers is on the way too.
Why do elbow/wrist injuries happen?
When the golf club hits the ground (ideally after the ball is struck!), there is a lot of vibration that occurs in the shaft of the club and that has to be absorbed somewhere in the body.
Of note, the stiffer the shaft that is required by the golfer, the higher vibration frequency there is going to be. Steel shafts vibrate more than graphite and stiff shafts vibrate more than ladies flex. This does not mean that you should play one shaft over the other in fear of pain, but it does help to be aware of what is going on at the shaft level.
The first part of the body connected to the club that needs to dampen the vibrations from impact is the hand and wrist followed closely by the elbow and then shoulder. This means that the more vibration that is present, the more work these joints have to do. It also means that if you are hitting off of a surface that is firmer (1½” mat on concrete for example) that there can be more vibration impact relative to hitting off of the grass.
Ever have a stinger when you hit a root or a rock? The reason that there can be acute injury to the wrist and elbow when this happens is that there in an acute increase in the stress that is much higher than usual at the wrist/elbow and shoulder joints, particularly the lead side (left side for a right-handed golfer).
The most common injuries in these areas that we see in juniors this time of year are from repeated swings on hard surfaces, however. The random root or rock hit while swinging does occur, but not nearly as common as the junior who is swinging the club hundreds if not thousands of times a week. Every swing, their arms and body need to absorb the vibrations from impact. If their muscles and other tissues are not prepared to absorb those vibrations, injury occurs.
What can be done to avoid these injuries?
- Avoid hitting off mats or other hard surfaces for prolonged periods of time. Try to use mats as an occasional substitute but not your primary surface that you are practicing off. Go out and do more course practice (which is scientifically proven to be more applicable to results on the course in competition compared to blocked practice on the range anyway).
- Do not go out and hit 200 balls when you have taken a few weeks off. Ease back into it as your body is not used to that volume of work. When you introduce a spike in activity (ie. hit 200 balls and go play 18) on that random nice day in January when you haven’t been able to hit more than 50 balls 1-2x/week for the past month, you are asking for injury!
- Engage in a golf fitness program that focuses on core and shoulder stability as well as improved sequencing and lower body power. The more you are able to stabilize and absorb the forces of impact with the larger muscles of the core and shoulder the less likely the smaller joints and muscles are to break down. There are a ton of examples of exercises to increase your shoulder and core stability with some of the simplest being bear crawls (crawling forward/backward/side to side on hands and feet) or more traditional ones such as using exercise bands.
- It is also essential to minimize these injuries that you are initiating and creating most of your power in the golf swing with your lower body. Improper sequencing and poor impact position can wreak havoc in your elbows and wrists. If your impact position looks like the guy on the left, then you have a great thing to work on this off-season that not only will improve your ability to compress the ball, but also reduce the risk of injury to your elbow and wrist.
If you are interested in receiving shoulder or core stability exercises from us to improve your body and reduce your chances of injury or have any other questions about this topic or any others please shoot us an email at [email protected]. Stay tuned for next month when we start talking about training for performance and getting the most out of the winter off-season!