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Good technique can lower golf handicap, prevent injuries
Just because there is no tackling, jumping or running does not mean golfers are immune to injury. 

“I see many golfers in my practice – from players who are retired and golf every day to those who play a few times a year,” said Alysia N. Robichau, M.D., a Houston Methodist primary care sports medicine physician. “Despite the level of experience a player has, the most common areas for injury or pain are the back and lower arm.”

Bending over the ball for every shot and following through on a swing places the most stress on the back during a round of golf. Kirk Noyes, a scratch golfer who plays in competitive amateur invitational across the country, said he often sees new golfers swing with too much force because they assume they need to hit harder to hit farther. 

“Everything in my golf game starts with my back because I’m rotating around it,” said Noyes, the current club champion at The Woodlands Country Club. “I’ve learned to take care of my back and use good swing technique to help avoid long-term back issues that can affect my game and daily life.”

Noyes has dealt with another common golf injury – lateral epicondylitis, better known as tennis elbow. Tennis elbow is an overuse injury that occurs when the tendons on the outside of the elbow become inflamed. 

“Many people assume that you can only get tennis elbow from playing tennis, but it’s common in all athletes and in non-athletes,” said Robichau, the medical advisor for the 2017 Shell Houston Open. “Ironically, tennis elbow is more common in golfers than golfer’s elbow.”

Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is the same overuse injury as tennis elbow, but it affects the tendons on the inside of the elbow. When holding your hand with the palm facing up, tennis elbow affects the tendons on the thumb side of the hand, and golfer’s elbow affects the tendons on the pinky side of the hand.

“It’s not uncommon to see a golfer with both tennis and golfer’s elbow at the same time,” Robichau said. “These overuse injuries can be treated easily with anti-inflammatory drugs and rest to give the tendons time to heal.”

Wrist injuries and pain are also common in golfers, especially in their lead hand – the left hand for right-handed players, and the right hand for left-handed players. Wrist pain or injuries are usually the result of overuse or an errant swing that twists the wrist, but the ulnar nerve, which runs along the pinky side of the hand, can become irritated from an improper grip on the club and cause numbness or tingling.

Robichau said that golfers can easily prevent back and lower arm pain by using good technique and proper form.

 “Many people believe golf is a simple sport that can be picked up easily, but I would recommend that new golfers work with an experienced player or coach to learn the skills needed for success on the course,” Robichau said. “Experienced players can also benefit from an occasional training session to ensure their technique and form are still in line.” 

Noyes agreed and said he often advises new golfers to take it slow and learn the fundamentals of the sport. 

“With good technique, everything in golf will follow – accuracy, consistency, distance, and power,” Noyes said. “Good technique can get your ball on the fairway or green and help you stay healthy and on the course.”

Houston Methodist is the official health care provider for the 2017 Shell Houston Open. For more information about Houston Methodist, visit houstonmethodist.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook