Golf and the shoulder: how to prevent injury

golfing shoulder injuriesGolf is often assumed to be a gentle, relaxing sport. However, as professional golfers know only too well, the risk of injury can be pretty high. It is estimated that 62% of amateur golfers suffer a severe injury which impacts their ability to play.

In particular, shoulder related injuries in the sport are common. Even professional golfers find themselves at risk of painful rotator cuff injuries. Last year, Masters former champion Danny Willett, was forced to end the season early, due to a rotator cuff injury. Now, as the 2018 Masters tournament tees off in Atlanta, players will no doubt be keen to avoid the same fate as Willett.

While the risk of shoulder injury is always going to be present, there are things you can do to minimise the risk. Here, we’ll look at how to prevent injury to the shoulders when playing this popular sport.

Common golfing shoulder injuries

Golfers can suffer an injury in both their leading and their non-leading shoulder. When they swing the club, the leading shoulder is pushed into a pretty extreme adducted position. The non-leading shoulder is at the same time, pushed into a more abducted externally rotated posture. This combined movement causes each shoulder to experience different pathologies.

As each shoulder is forced into different positions, the injury risks differ between them. The leading shoulder is at a higher risk of developing posterior instability and AC joint pain. The non-leading shoulder is more likely to develop SLAP tears and anterior instability. Both shoulders have an equal risk of developing subacromial impingement and rotator cuff tears.

How can you prevent golfing shoulder injury?

Although injuries cannot be 100% avoided, there are things you can do to prevent the risk of shoulder injury in golf.

Labral tears, for example, have become a very common injury in the leading shoulder, and they’re reportedly caused by a poor backswing technique. If you keep the arm too tight against the chest when you swing the club backwards, it can easily tear the labrum. This is responsible for stabilising the shoulder joint and a tear will lead to extreme pain around the rear of the shoulder.

This type of labral tear can be prevented by swinging less and turning more. This may not easy for some golfers, as it can prove to be physically challenging to turn the upper body more.  It is also important to stop the arm from swinging once the body has stopped turning. Experts suggest trying to swing using the turn, rather than relying upon the shoulder muscles.

Other ways to prevent shoulder injury include taking part in a specialised golf training program and ensuring good conditioning. A golf-specific program will help to develop and strengthen the muscles around the shoulder and the back, helping to reduce the risk of injury.

Overall, shoulder injuries are common in golf so preventative measures are necessary for those looking to stay on the course. It is also important to seek treatment as soon as an injury occurs. The longer you leave it, the worse the injury will become and the more time you will spend being unable to play.