Coronavirus may have closed golf courses (at the time of writing), but golf has long been a popular sport in the UK and there’s no doubt that people will be back on the fairways once it’s safe to do so.
While the popularity of golf has dropped a little from the levels it reached in the 1990s, the global business data platform Statista reports that:
- England has 1,872 golf courses (2017 figures), by far the largest number in Europe
- There are around 656,000 registered golf players in England, 188,000 in Scotland, 183,000 in Ireland and 45,000 in Wales – with many more who aren’t registered
- Just under million people (946,000) golfers play twice a week or more in England
Benefits of playing golf
The benefits of playing golf include:
- Increasing heart rate and blood flow and improving fitness levels from walking long distances, carrying a golf bag and swinging a golf club
- Strengthening the core and improving flexibility of the back and shoulders
- Positive wellbeing from being out in nature and the social aspects of the game
- Tiredness after a game leading to a more restful night’s sleep
- Concentration and memory skills required help to exercise the brain
Common injuries from playing golf
Although it’s a relatively gentle sport compared with playing football, running or contact sports such as rugby, playing golf can still result in injury.
While poor technique can lead to a golfer becoming injured, the main cause tends to be overuse of certain muscles/parts of the body. The key areas prone to golf injury are the lower back (dorsolumbar), the shoulders (in particular the non-dominant shoulder), the elbows and the wrists.
Although single trauma injury can happen while playing golf, for example a sprained ankle or dislocated shoulder, overuse injuries are more common. Because of the amount of time that professional golfers spend practicing and playing, they are at a particularly high risk of developing overuse injuries.
What is an overuse injury?
This is when a particular muscle or other part of the body is repeatedly put under high levels of stress. The longer this goes on, the more likely injury will occur.
What to do if you have an overuse injury from playing golf
Although rest can help, for this kind of injury it’s best to consult a professional, for example a physiotherapist or trained sports massage therapist.
A fitness professional with a Level 3 Diploma in Sports Massage (Soft Tissue Therapy) will be trained to help with soft tissue injuries such as those caused by overuse. Our blog on soft tissue repair will give you further information on the phases of recovery.
If the golfer is suffering from lumbar pain, in addition to seeking help from a physio or osteopath, there may be specific exercises that can help recovery. A personal trainer or fitness instructor with a Level 4 Certificate in Exercise for the Management of Lower Back Pain should be able to offer advice.
How to reduce the likelihood of injury when playing golf
First of all, amateur golfers should ensure that they are using the right golfing equipment – and using it correctly – to reduce the risk of injury.
A 10-minute or more warming up session before a game can also help. To keep themselves in top condition before heading out on the course, golfers can also benefit from fitness training, such as interval training and other cardio workouts, and weight training, along with exercise to improve balance and flexibility.
This will help to develop strength in the body’s subsystems, such as:
The posterior oblique subsystem
The lateral subsystem
The deep longitudinal subsystem
While many golfers report having suffered overuse injuries, there are options such as gentle exercise and sports massage that can help recovery, and there are stretching or strengthening exercises to reduce the risk of injury in the first place. As always, we recommend that anyone with an injury should seek treatment from the appropriately trained professional.