Golf swing: Get it in shape

Want to avoid golf injuries? Start by understanding the mechanics behind your golf swing. The more you know, the less likely you’ll be sidelined by injury.

It’s been a few months since your last golf outing. You’re at the first tee, working out the kinks of your rusty golf swing. What better training, you think, than getting out there and playing?

Think about it some more. Golf isn’t a contact sport, but it puts significant demands on your body. Fine-tune your golf swing now to prevent injuries later on.

Think through your golf swing

Understanding the mechanics behind your golf swing can help you prevent injuries.

  • Use proper posture. Think about your posture as you address the ball. Avoid hunching over the ball, which may contribute to neck and back strain.
  • Stay smooth. The power of a golf swing comes from force transferred smoothly through all the muscle groups, from your ankles to your wrists. If you depend on one part of your body for your hitting power, you may be more prone to injury. For example, overemphasizing your wrists during your swing can lead to golfer’s elbow — a strain of the muscles on the inside of the forearm.
  • Stabilize your lower back. Keep your pelvis as level as possible throughout your golf swing.
  • Don’t overswing. If your golf swing is too hard or too fast, you may lose control of the club and hurt yourself. Relax and take a nice, easy swing at the ball.

Sometimes lessons can help. “The more you learn about correct mechanics early in your golf career, the less prone to injury you’ll be,” says Edward Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and co-director of the Sports Medicine Center at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. “It’s harder to break bad habits later.”

Tips to keep you on the course

Of course, there’s more to golf than your golf swing. Consider other ways to lower your risk of injury:

  • Warm up. Before you practice your golf swing or play a round of golf, walk or jog for a few minutes to warm up. Then try a few gentle stretches.
  • Start slowly. You might practice your golf swing for hours, thinking it’s helping your game. But if your muscles aren’t conditioned for the extra strain, practicing your golf swing may do more harm than good. Instead, work up to your desired level of activity.
  • Get aerobic. To improve your stamina for a day on the course, include aerobic activity in your daily routine. Try walking, jogging, bicycling or swimming.
  • Focus on flexibility. Regular stretching can improve your range of motion and lead to a more fluid golf swing. It’s especially important to stretch your back, shoulders and hips, as well as the pectoral muscles on the front of your chest.
  • Strengthen your muscles. You don’t need bulging muscles to hit a long drive — but the stronger your muscles, the greater your club speed. Better yet, stronger muscles may be less prone to injury. Try biceps curls and triceps extensions with resistance tubing or dumbbells. On weight machines, try the lat pull-down, seated row and leg press. To improve muscle balance, work on muscles in the back of the shoulder and the shoulder blade area, as well as the front of the chest.
  • Lift your clubs carefully. If you jerk heavy clubs out of the trunk of your vehicle, you may injure yourself before you reach the first tee. Keep your back straight and use the strength of your legs to lift your clubs and other heavy objects.
  • Choose proper footwear. If you’ve had a leg or foot injury — such as ligament or cartilage damage — wear tennis shoes or golf shoes with short cleats. Long cleats dig into the sod and hold your feet planted as you swing, which may strain your knees or ankles.

While golfing, watch for symptoms of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Red flags might include a headache, dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, irritability or confusion. Drink plenty of water, and cut your game short if necessary. Call it quits at the first sign of threatening skies or lightning.

Make sure you have fun 🙂

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