This time of year, Sanjeev Kakar, M.D., a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon, starts seeing many injuries among people inspired by watching golf and other stick-handling sports.
”The weather is changing. Major golf tournaments are on television. Local courses have opened. People are excited to be playing again,” says Dr. Kakar, who specializes in hand and wrist injuries. ”People run to the range and hit hundreds of balls in a short period of time, and they do this without warming up and stretching. In addition, players may have poor mechanics and use old equipment, which can all lead to an injury.”
Being active is good for the body, but sports that use sticks can be especially hard on the hands and wrists. The hamate bone at the base of the palm below the little finger can be injured, especially if hitting a golf shot ”fat” (when the club hits the ground before the ball) or with repetitive hitting with a baseball bat. Another common injury involves the extensor carpi ulnaris tendon or triangular fibrocartilage complex on the pinky side of the hand. Injuries result in wrist pain, especially with twisting and forearm rotation and loss of grip strength.
Dr. Kakar also advises people to be aware that aches in one region of the body can lead to pain elsewhere.
”The golf swing is comprised of dynamic motion,” Dr. Kakar says. ”If you’re compensating for a back injury and you’re not turning, then to generate extra strength, you compensate with another part of the body. For example, you may just have an arm swing and suddenly you’re impacting the elbow or the wrists.”
To prevent injury in the first place, Dr. Kakar offers the three Ps:
- Purposeful practice
Before you start golfing, perform basic stretching moves that loosen your back, hips, shoulders, arms and wrists. Work up to your desired level of activity. Instead of hitting hundreds of balls at one time, focus on one skill for a shorter amount of time. Work on your short game or work on your long game rather than both at the same time.
- Proper equipment
Equipment continues to get better and better, so seek out equipment that is appropriate for you now versus hand-me-downs from long ago. Be sure clubs are the right length and the grip is thick enough. Avoid old steel-shafted clubs. Newer clubs have lighter graphite shafts and cavity backs that can better absorb shock.
- Proper mechanics
Whether you’re a rookie or veteran, taking lessons from knowledgeable PGA instructors can create a good foundation or correct bad habits.
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