10 of the Most Common Golf Injuries

What are the most common injuries suffered by golfers? How do you recognize them, what are the available treatments, and what are some ways you can minimize their impact? Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Larry Foster is the author of "Dr. Divot's Guide to Golf Injuries," and with his help, here are the conditions most likely to affect golfers.

The info on symptoms, most-likely treatments and do's and don'ts for golfers is provided by Dr. Foster.

01
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Back Pain

Tiger Woods grimaces in pain, grabbing his back, after hitting from the trees during the 2005 Presidents Cup
Tiger Woods winces with back pain after hitting a shot. Back pain is the most common injury among golfers. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The golf swing (not to mention the hunched-over putting stance many of us get into) puts great stress on the golfer's back, so it's no surprise back pain is the most common problem for golfers.

Back pain in golfers might be mechanical or disc-related, arthritis-related, or caused by a stress fracture, among other possible causes.

Symptoms: Pain in back, stiffness, muscle spasms, leg symptoms if nerve irritation is present (numbness, pain, and/or weakness in the legs).

Treatments: Among the possible treatments are rest, medication, therapy, bracing, cortisone, surgery.

Golfers with back pain should:

  • Use proper back mechanics when lifting your bag.
  • Bend through the knees (squat) when retrieving the ball.
  • Consider switching to a putter with a longer shaft.
  • Slow down the backswing to minimize rotational stress on the lower back at the top of the backswing.
  • Adopt a big shoulder and hip turn on the backswing (classic swing technique).
  • Make sure body weight is properly shifted to the right foot during the backswing, and that the arms and shoulders are kept within the plane of the swing at the top of the backswing.


Golfers with back pain should not:

  • Place the feet too far apart at the address phase (this limits the hip turn later in the swing and increases stress on the lower back).
  • Hyper-extend the spine on the follow-through, but rather utilize the relaxed upright "I" position (classic swing technique).


Find more general info about back pain on VeryWell.com.

02
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Tennis Elbow / Golfer's Elbow

Tennis elbow is an inflammation, soreness, or pain on the outside of the upper arm near the elbow. Golfer's elbow is an inflammation, soreness or pain on the inside of the upper arm near the elbow. Tennis elbow is actually more common among golfers than golfer's elbow.

Symptoms: Pain and tenderness on outer side of left elbow (tennis elbow) and inner side of right elbow (golfer's elbow). Pain may be greatest at the top of the backswing and at impact.

Treatments: Among the possible treatments are rest, medication, therapy, counterforce bracing, cortisone, surgery.

Do:

  • Consider switching to graphite shafts and low compression balls to decrease elbow strain at impact.
  • Practice on real turf instead of rubber mats when possible.
  • Ease up on grip pressure and loosen up on the elbows during the swing.
  • Bring the club back slowly during the backswing.
  • Maintain a smooth transition from the backswing to the downswing.
  • Move the ball to a safe spot to avoid contact with rocks, tree roots, sprinklers, etc..
  • Consider adopting a more elliptical swing to sweep the ball off the turf and minimize divot-taking.
  • Tee-up the ball on fairway shots, if necessary.


Don't:

  • Release the hands prematurely at the top of the backswing (casting maneuver).
  • Decelerate the club before impact.


Find more general info about tennis elbow and about golfer's elbow on VeryWell.com.

03
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Shoulder Pain

Paula Creamer having shoulder pain
Shoulder pain was bothering Paula Creamer during the 2013 HSBC Champions. Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Shoulder pain includes: Rotator cuff tendonitis, tear, impingement; or A-C joint arthritis; or instability, scapular lag.

Symptoms: Pain in the shoulder or upper arm at various phases of the golf swing, night pain, pain with overhead activities.

Treatments: Among the possible treatments are rest, medication, therapy, cortisone, surgery.

Golfers with shoulder pain should:

  • Maintain proper strength and flexibility of the shoulder and scapular muscles (of both shoulders).
  • Slow down the backswing to reduce stress on the shoulders.
  • Consider adopting a flatter swing plane to sweep the ball off the turf and reduce the chance of shoulder-jolting divots.


Find more general info about shoulder pain on VeryWell.com.

04
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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a repetitive stress disorder that occurs in the nerves of the hands. At its worst, carpal tunnel is extremely painful and sometimes incapacitating.

Symptoms: Numbness and tingling of the fingers (particularly at night), hand weakness and clumsiness.

Treatments: Among the possible treatments are rest, medication, splinting, surgery.

Golfers with carpal tunnel syndrome should:

  • Make sure that club handle grips are replaced as needed, or consider larger/softer grips.
  • Reduce grip pressure on the club handle.


Find more general info about carpal tunnel syndrome on VeryWell.com.

05
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DeQuervain's Tendinitis

DeQuervain's causes pain in the wrist near the base of the thumb, and is caused by an inflammation in the tendons that control the thumb.

Symptoms: Pain, swelling, and tenderness at the wrist near the base of the thumb. Pain typically occurs at the left wrist at the top of the backswing.

Treatments: Among the possible treatments are rest, medication, thumb spica splinting, therapy, cortisone, surgery.

Golfers with DeQuervain's tendinitis should:

  • Avoid excessive cocking of the left wrist at the top of the backswing.


Golfers with DeQuervain's tendinitis should not:

  • Release the hands prematurely at the top of the backswing (casting maneuver).


(Note: Arthritis at the base of the thumb will produce symptoms very similar to those of DeQuervain's tendinitis. Your doctor can differentiate the two conditions by performing a careful physical exam and getting X-rays of the thumb.)

Find more general info about DeQuervain's tendinitis on VeryWell.com.

06
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Knee Pain

John Daly experiences knee pain during round of golf on PGA Tour
Jeff Haynes/Getty Images

Knee pain in golfers can be caused by any of numerous underlying issues, among them: a torn meniscus; knee arthritis (osteoarthritis), or kneecap pain (chondromalacia).

Symptoms: Pain, clicking, swelling of the knee aggravated by twisting, squatting, and walking.

Treatments: Among the possible treatments are rest, medication, arthroscopic surgery (meniscus tear), total joint replacement surgery (severe arthritis), injection treatments, bracing, therapy.

Do:

  • Consider switching to spikeless shoes to reduce twisting stresses on the knees.
  • Focus on practice and play with short irons while recuperating from a knee injury (or surgery), to minimize stress on the knees.


Don't:

  • Return to full swinging prematurely after knee injury or surgery - the golf swing (especially when using a driver or long irons) places enough stress on the knee to risk re-injury.


Find more general info about knee pain on VeryWell.com.

07
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Trigger Finger

Trigger finger can cause a finger or fingers to lock up. The condition is caused when the flexor tendon sheath, through which the finger tendons run, is inhibited.

Symptoms: Painful locking and snapping of the finger.

Treatments: Among the possible treatments are cortisone and surgery.

Golfers with trigger finger should:

  • Use a glove to pad the more susceptible left hand.
  • Make sure that club handle grips are replaced as needed, or consider larger/softer grips.


Find more general info about trigger finger on VeryWell.com.

08
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Wrist Impaction Syndrome

Impaction syndromes of the wrist are caused when the bones of the wrist bang into one another due to excess or repetitive movements.

Symptoms: Pain and tenderness on the top of the wrist, usually on the right side at the top of the backswing.

Treatments: Among the possible treatments are rest, splinting, cortisone, or, rarely, surgery.

Do:

  • Slow down the backswing to minimize right wrist extension at the top of the backswing.


Find more general info about wrist injuries/pain on VeryWell.com.

09
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ECU Tendon Subluxation

ECU Tendon Subluxation is caused when the sheath holding the wrist tendon begins sliding in and out of its groove. (ECU stands for extensor carpi ulnaris.)

Symptoms: Painful clicking in the wrist near the knobby bump at the end of the ulna bone.

Treatments: Among the possible treatments are casting, surgery to repair the torn tendon sheath.

Do:

  • Avoid taking fat shots and stay away from rocks, roots, etc.


Find more general info about the ECU tendon on VeryWell.com.

10
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Fracture of Hamate Bone

The hamate bone is a small bone on the pinky side of the wrist. The hamate has a small prominence called the hook, which juts into the palm. The way most golfers grip their clubs puts the butt-end of the club right up against the hook of the hamate during the swing.

Symptoms: Pain and tenderness in left palm, numbness in ring and pinky fingers.

Treatments: Among the possible treatments are Surgery, casting.

Do:

  • Make sure that your clubs are fitted properly so that the butt end of the club extends beyond the fleshy pad on the pinky-side of the left hand.


Don't:

  • Take fat shots or swing at balls near rocks, roots, or other obstructions.


Find more general info about hamate bone fractures on VeryWell.com.