The sedate pace of golf would seem to leave little room for injuries—but that's not so. According to one study, as many as one-third of the more than 25 million golfers in the US sustain significant injuries of the back, spine, shoulders, elbows or wrists while playing the sport. Important...
Warm up properly. A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that nearly 460/o of golfers don't warm up. Those who do warm up usually perform little more than a few "air swings" before hitting the ball. Inadequate warm-up is a leading cause of injury.
Allow two to five minutes of aerobic warm-up activity—jogging in place, fast walking, etc.
Follow the aerobic workout with five to 10 minutes of gentle stretching—torso twists, chest stretches, etc. Include neck turns. Neck stiffness interferes with smooth body rotation during swings. Also, do stretches that target the hamstrings, such as lying leg lifts. Poor hamstring flexibility is a common cause of back pain.
Stretch one or two muscle groups at each hole while waiting for your tum. For more information on the best stretches and exercises for golfers, go to urutwyogaforgolfers.com, which is run by fir ness consultant Katherine Roberts. She is author of the book Yoga for Golfers (McGraw-Hill).
Be careful when lifting. Golfers often get hurt before the first tee because they jerk their clubs out of the car trunk. Use your legs as well as your back when lifting the bag. On the course, pick up balls by kneeling rather than bending.
Practice good balance and posture. Most neck and shoulder stiffness occurs when players hunch over the ball excessively, with their neck and shoulders too far forward. Work with a golf pro to optimize your posture and stance when addressing the ball. You want to maintain a neutral spine position, without excessive bending or extension.
Limit your swing. Amateur golfers tend to "overswing"—using greater force than necessary. Instead, shorten your swing. End the backswing at about the 1:00 position, instead of 3:00.
Strength train. Lifting weights to increase strength and endurance can significantly reduce the risk of golf injuries. Focus on strengthening the shoulders, upper back, and "core" muscles in the abdomen and lower back.
Consider graphite clubs. They have more "give" and generate less vibration and shock than clubs with steel shafts. This is important when you accidentally hit the ground during hard drives, a cause of wrist and elbow injuries.
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