Sports Injuries – Golf’s big 5 in Anglesey, Conwy & Gwynedd!


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In the Gwynedd, Conwy and Anglesey regions Golf injury prevalence and physical location differ between amateur and professional golfers. Differences in swing mechanics, conditioning levels, number of swings taken (both during practice and on the course), and equipment use account for the differences seen among various players. Although numerous injuries can occur while playing golf, several are seen frequently. The most common complaints in golfers are the lower back pain, wrist pain, shoulder pain, elbow pain, and hip pain. The speed and force of the swing are often the cause of golf injuries, but they can also be attributed to a player’s poor physical conditioning for the sport of golf. Many touring professionals take hundreds of swings per day and are able to keep their bodies relatively injury free. However, many weekend golfers take only 100 swings in a day, and cause long term acute back pain or severe shoulder pain. Why is this? Quite simply, the professionals have prepared their bodies for the sport both physically and technically so that they can avoid injuries and play in tournaments each and every week. At The North Wales Spine Clinic we use the same exercises the professionals use to get their bodies in top shape for the golf swing. This helps golfers avoid sports injuries and enhance sporting performance in golf. At The North Wales Spine Clinic we find a mixture of Chiropractic, Acupuncture, Massage, Neuro-muscular and Core Stabilisation, OPT (Optimum Performance Training) exercise programmes, Osteopathy and Physiotherapy techniques alongside sessions with Iain Runcie a golf professional of 36 years experience and one of Wales’s only Titleist Performance Institutes (TPI) qualified professionals tends to help most people through their sports injury due to golf.

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Fix your Body – Fix your Swing

Low Back Pain

Studies show that low back pain is reported in 63 percent of golf injuries in professional golfers, whilst low back pain is reported in 36 percent of golf injuries in amateur golfers. In general, rotation of the lumbar spine in the workplace has been directly correlated with lower back injury. Outside of the workplace, rotational movements have been indicated in up to 50 percent of lower back injuries. When these rotational movements are combined with forward bending of the spine, the likelihood of lower back injury and perhaps disc problems is greatly increased. If this stress is continued then disc herniations, joint damage and pain and arthritic change to joints can occur. Knowing that the golf swing incorporates both of these movements, it is obvious why lower back pain is the number one injury for golfers. In everyday life, rotational movements are normally controlled, but the golf swing is not. In addition, the perfect golf swing requires multiple joints to undergo near-maximal or maximal rotation for it to be performed efficiently. A loss of or excessive movement at any one of these areas will result in undesirable compensations within the kinetic chain. Is it any wonder the golf swing results in the many back injuries reported in the Bangor, Llandudno, Caernarfon, Colwyn Bay and Abergele areas?

To put this all into perspective for you, the compressive forces found within the lower back are equivalent to eight times a person’s body weight with each swing. That means if you weigh 200 pounds (90 kg), 1,600 pounds (720 kg) of compressive force go through your lower back every time you take a full swing! Imagine the potential for disc problems including herniated discs or the laymen’s term  – slipped discs! Running, which is considered a high-impact sport, normally produces compression of only three to four times a person’s body weight. This comparison alone should make you start to consider how fit your body truly is to withstand these high forces in your spine with each swing.

Wrist Pain

Wrist injuries are also common. They often occur at the point of impact when the golf club comes into contact with something other than the ball. Wrist problems include carpal tunnel syndrome, which may require a carpal tunnel operation, although carpel tunnel relief is often short lived with surgery. Causes of wrist pain could include catching the ground, a tree root, a buried rock, or the driving-range mat. Often, these types of injuries occur in amateurs when they hit a “fat shot.” This is when the ground is struck before contact is made with the ball. In better golfers, wrist injuries are often secondary to playing in deep rough, where the longer grass grabs at the club head and rapidly decelerates the club in a manner that is similar to hitting a fat shot. In either case, it is the rapid deceleration of the club, and therefore the wrist, that causes the wrist injury. Since players can’t always avoid hitting from situations that cause this rapid deceleration, they should prepare their wrists to deal with this intense force. Strengthening and rehabilitating the wrists will not only help you prevent excessive loss of speed of the club head but also help keep your wrists from being strained to the point of injury. Once you have passed this point and injury has occurred, it is very difficult to play golf since each swing will send vibrations and force through the likely tendonitis in the wrist. This slows the healing process and can potentially make the injury worse possibly bringing on carpel tunnel symptoms. Therefore, the best plan is to prepare your wrists for any situation so that you have the strength to prevent these types of injuries.

Shoulder pain

In the Gwynedd, Conwy and Anglesey regions shoulder pain is another frequent complaint among professional golfers, with injury to the lead shoulder occurring in up to 75 percent of cases of rotator cuff involvement. When patients come to The North Wales Spine Clinic for Chiropractic treatment for shoulder pain we find a great deal of the amateur golfers also complain of having chronic shoulder pain. The shoulder is often referred to as the shoulder complex, and it is just that: complex! The anatomy and biomechanics involved in shoulder function are so intricate that many different deficiencies can lead to shoulder injury. Very large ranges of motion in a number of planes create an inherently unstable joint that relies predominantly on the soft tissues surrounding the joint for stability. Common injures are the acromoclavicular joint or AC joint which are graded 1-3 dependent on the level of damage. Shoulder impingement is also common, this is when the head of the humerus affects the tendon of one of the rotator cuff muscles and causes tendonitis.  Further damage can occur in the form of a rotator cuff tear often diagnosed with ultra sound or MRI. Consider the clavicle (collar bone), humerus (arm), and scapula (shoulder blade), these three bones alone are served by 20 muscles, with 95 sites of insertion.

As a Chiropractor I find many people concentrating on only a small number of these muscles when performing a fitness training session. As a result, the shoulder’s mechanics are negatively affected. It is important to train the muscles you can’t see in addition to the ones you can. Golfers usually experience shoulder pain because of an imbalance of shoulder musculature that prevents the joint from moving properly. This is why it is crucial to work every part of the shoulder complex equally in your fitness regime so that balance can be achieved. This will improve the range of motion of your shoulders as well as keep you from experiencing shoulder pain.

Elbow pain – Tennis elbow – Golfers elbow

At our Chiropractic clinic we find that when people think of elbow injuries in golf, they automatically think of golfer’s elbow. Sounds logical, right? Well, in fact, the most common elbow injury in golf is tennis elbow! Golfers elbow and tennis elbow can occur on either the lead or trail elbow, although it is most common on the lead side. Gripping the club too tightly during the swing or altering the grip may result in changes to the amount of force generated by the forearm musculature. This excess force can overload the tissue and lead to elbow injury and therefore joint pain. Other common reasons for tennis elbow in golfers are the chicken-winging swing flaw on the follow-through and bending the elbow during the takeaway. Both of these will cause the golfer to eventually straighten the elbow with rapid force and overload the elbow tissues.

Golfer’s elbow, on the other hand, refers to damage to the muscles and tendons in the area of the inside elbow. Most commonly, the trail-side elbow is affected. Early casting of the club in the downswing can produce a force that is too much for the muscles to handle. Repeatedly swinging with this poor technique can easily cause tissue damage and lead to joint pain with each and every swing leading people to search for elbow pain relief.

Hip Pain

Hip pain is high in prevalence not just amongst golfers nationally but in local regions such as Bangor, Caernarfon, Menai Bridge, Llanfairfechan, Penmaenmawr, Conwy, Llandudno and Colwyn Bay. Hip pain due to a sports injury is the last area that we are going to focus on. Although most golfers know that rotation of the hips, pelvis, and torso is necessary for an efficient swing, most do not have proper strength and movement in the hips. This lack of movement and strength not only causes you to produce a technically inefficient swing but also distributes awkward forces through the hips. Over time this stress can cause arthritic joint changes and joint pain. The body is very smart and will find a way to move one way or another. The problem is that many times these compensation patterns are the reason for hip injuries. Asking the hips to move with speeds and motions they are not capable of will stress the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints in the area and begin causing hip pain. It is nearly impossible to produce proper rotation in the golf swing and to execute an efficient swing pattern with chronic hip pain.