Most Common Golf Injuries

Golfer with Knee Injury
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While golf is generally seen as a low-impact sport, golf injuries are quite common.

One study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine examined injury data from more than 500 professional golfers (mostly club pros and instructors at courses). The study found that 66 percent experienced an injury during their professional career, while 31 percent reported a golf-related injury within the last 12 months.

The study further discovered that golfers frequently injure their lower back, wrist, elbow, neck, and shoulder – as well as finding that men are 2.5 times more likely to experience a lower back injury compared to women.

Keeping these findings in mind, we will explore the most common golf injuries in this article. Keep reading to learn about what types of injuries and symptoms to watch out for, as well as tips for injury prevention and treatment. If you are seeking to learn more about your own swing we do offer the Titlist Assessment for Golfers.

Common Back Golf Injuries

Back pain from golfing is widely considered to be the most common injury sustained from the sport.

In a 2016 academic review, lower back and spine injuries were noted as the “greatest overall occurrence” amongst golfers, affecting between 18.3 to 36.4 percent of amateur golfers.

The commonality of back injuries in golf can likely be attributed to the sport’s repetitive motions that, over time, can result in inflammation, strains, or even more serious injuries. Along with the lower back, the upper and middle back can also experience injury from golfing.

Here is a breakdown of common back injuries caused by golfing and their symptoms:

  • Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction: The sacroiliac joint (SI joint) helps to distribute force from the upper body to the lower body. The SI joint can become injured in golf primarily from the impact of the downswing movement with a golf club. Important symptoms to watch for with this injury include lower back pain, burning in the pelvis, and sharp pain in the legs.  
  • Herniated Discs: Intervertebral discs serve as cushions between the vertebrae of the spine. A herniated disc occurs when the inner, soft center of the disc pushes out of its casing. Symptoms can range in severity from mild pain to sharp pain and numbness.  
  • Facet Joint Syndrome: Facet joints help provide your spine its flexibility and range of motion. The repetitive, twisting movements as a result of playing golf can lead to injuries to these joints. Key symptoms to watch for when it comes to facet joint injuries include a reduced range of motion, muscle pain, numbness, and unusual weakness.

Common Rib Golf Injuries

In a review of literature on golf-related stress fractures by The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, rib stress fractures were named as the most common stress fracture resulting from the sport. Additionally, the review found that 80 percent of stress fractures occur on a golfer’s lead side.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine:

Multiple factors have been attributed to golfers experiencing stress fractures at the ribs. These include poor technique, increased golfing activity, and repetitive muscle contraction. As the name implies, “Duffer’s Fracture” was a term coined for the inexperienced golfer with poor technique.”

For a rib stress fracture, key symptoms to look out for include a dull aching in the ribs, increasingly sharp pain, swelling, and chest pain. Pain from a stress fracture will worsen over time if not addressed and treated properly.

While rib stress fractures are the most common rib injuries from golfing, another potential injury to watch out for is rib bruising – typically caused by impact from golf balls or clubs. Symptoms of a bruised rib include skin bruising and discoloration, tenderness, and mild pain.

Knee Pain from Golfing

The prevalence of knee injuries amongst both professional and amateur golfers is between 3 to 18 percent on average, according to a 2017 study.

Knee injuries in golfing can have a few different causes, including:

  • Sprains & Strains: A sprain or strain in the knee from golfing typically occurs when the knee is twisted beyond its normal range of motion. Symptoms for this type of injury include pain, swelling, reduced range of motion, and weakness when walking.
  • Overuse: Overuse of the knees combined with poor posture and form can increase your risk of knee injuries. The tell-tale sign of overuse and incorrect swing mechanics are soreness and pain in the knees, often requiring periods of rest to treat.
  • Soft Tissue Injury: Soft tissue in the knees includes tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. This soft tissue can become damaged as a result of extreme impact or force on the knees. The force on the knees from swinging a club can result in this type of injury, making posture and form while swinging all the more important.

Golfer’s or Tennis Elbow

Golfer’s elbow is a condition similar to tennis elbow wherein the tendons in your forearm that connect to your inner elbow become sore or painful. Like the other injuries mentioned in this article, golfer’s elbow is most commonly caused by the repetitive motions involved in swinging a club.

Along with stiffness and pain in the inner elbow, other symptoms can include weakness in the hands and wrists, as well as soreness in the forearm.

Golfer’s elbow is generally regarded as an uncommon injury, affecting less than 1 percent of the population, according to a 2018 study. The condition is most likely to occur in golfers between the ages of 40 to 60.

Wrist Tendonitis from Golfing

Wrist tendonitis occurs from inflammation of the tendons that connect your wrist, lower arm, and fingers.

This condition is considered a common injury in general, making it a normal injury to occur when golfing. The primary cause of wrist tendonitis is overuse of the wrist and hands, especially when repetitive movements are involved (i.e. swinging a golf club).

Tendonitis can develop in golfers from a condition known as golfer’s wrist. This condition is similarly caused by overuse and poor form, with key symptoms including soreness, pain, and reduced range of motion.

Sprained Wrist from Golfing

Sprained wrists are one of the most common wrist injuries from golfing – and if left untreated, can cause golfer’s wrist and wrist tendonitis.

According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the prevalence of wrist injuries among amateur golfers is between 13 to 20 percent, while for professional golfers the prevalence is between 20 to 27 percent.

Sprains can be caused by overuse and repetitive movements. However, they can also result from golfers striking the ground or an object (rock, root, etc.) during their swing, causing an unwanted impact on the wrist that results in a sprain. Symptoms of a sprained wrist include pain, swelling, bruising, tenderness, and limited motion.

Final Thoughts: Treating & Preventing Golf Injuries

To treat a golf injury, you should always seek the guidance and help of a specialized professional, such as a Chiropractor. By visiting a specialist, the root cause of your injury can be identified and the best treatment plan will be determined.

Of course, there are also measures you can take to prevent and avoid injuries altogether, such as:

  • Warm-Up Before Playing: Warming up will help to get your blood flowing and your muscles loose, which may help improve your range of motion and reduce the risk of injury.  
  • Build Up Strength & Endurance: While you do not need to be incredibly fit to play golf, having balance, core strength, and general physical endurance will help you to not only play better but avoid injury as well.
  • Pay Attention to Posture & Form: Form and posture are extremely important in any sport. In golf the twist in your swing and your posture while carrying your club bag are particularly important to pay attention to. Always lift with your legs when lifting heavy items!

Above all else, listen to your body and watch for signs of an early-stage injury. Always seek the help of a trained specialist before beginning any new treatment plan or practice routine while injured.