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Sports Medicine For Golfers

Monday, June 24, 2013
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With Dr. Brett Sweitzer, Einstein Sports Medicine

Golfing is as much about what happens off the green as on it. Exercise routines that incorporate stretching, strength training, cardiovascular conditioning and balance can improve a golfer’s performance. Stretching is the first component.

“I recommend stretching before and after every kind of exercise,” says Dr. Brett Sweitzer of Einstein Sports Medicine. “The goals of pre- and post-golf stretching are to loosen muscles, tendons and joints in the back, shoulders and elbows. As we get older, they tend to tighten and that makes them more prone to injury.”

Sweitzer offers a few general tips. “Warm up on the driving range before you hit the course. Take some light swings with the golf club. Start with pitching wedge and irons before moving up to the driver.”

Why is that order important? “When you use the driver, the tendency is to swing hard which puts greater stress on your joints,” Sweitzer explains. “Do that last, not first.”

Why is cardiovascular conditioning necessary for golf?

“A round of golf with 18 holes means walking quite a bit and walking in the heat means that you can fatigue quickly,” Sweitzer explains. “Fatigue in general is a problem. But the deeper problem is that, when you are fatigued, you tend to lose your technique. That’s when you become vulnerable to injury.”

One secret to a great golf swing: great abs.

“The swing puts a lot of pressure on the core, including the upper and lower abdominal muscles, the hip, and the back,” Sweitzer says. “Strengthening those muscles provides stability to the core. That improves your swing and makes it less likely that you will injure your back, shoulder, hips.”

Balance and coordination are also key. “The goal is to have a nice, fluid swing without large awkward movements, not only because they are ineffective but because they can create injuries,” Sweitzer says.

Any other insider tips?

“Hydrate,” Sweitzer says. “In warm weather, you can easily get dehydrated especially if you are drinking alcohol. With that comes a loss of coordination and loss of technique and that makes you prone to injury.”

Some soreness might be expected after a round of golf. When should people seek professional help?

“Sudden, severe pain during an awkward swing or some kind of traumatic event is concerning,” Sweitzer says. “If you feel a pop or pull or something gives way, get medical help as soon as possible. If pain or swelling persists for more than a couple of days, see a physician.”

Don’t try to tough it out. Playing hurt can compound injuries. “Repeating the movements on already compromised joints, muscles and tendons is dangerous,” Sweitzer explains. “We can help patients recover with physical therapy and rehab. Occasionally, injections of cortisone are required. Rarely, but sometimes, surgery is needed. But we can do a lot with PT and make a big difference in improved function and lowered pain.”

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