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Six golf myths that can injure you

Aaron Anderson, MD

As both an avid golfer and a sports medicine physician who treats golfers with injuries, I hear a lot of misconceptions about fitness on the links. If you want to play a better game, and avoid getting hurt, find out the truth behind these common myths.

Myth 1: I walk, jog, or bike, which means I’m in great shape for golf.

Fact: Endurance exercises are excellent for your overall health. However, to optimize your golf fitness, you should focus on strengthening exercises that target your legs and core, and stretches that maintain your flexibly. Recreational golfers typically swing their clubs between 80 and 100 miles an hour. If you’re stiff and relatively weak, you’re more likely to get injured. You need great flexibility and core strength to be able to support your body.

Myth 2: I’m too young or too old for stretching to make a difference.

Fact: No matter what your age is, warming up helps you avoid injury and play a better game. Studies show that stretching can improve how far and how straight you can hit the ball.

Myth 3: It doesn’t matter what kind of stretches I do.

Fact: Static stretches—positions you hold without moving—aren’t very effective and can actually increase your risk of injury, particularly if you do them prior to starting your game. Dynamic stretches, a cross between an exercise and a stretch, provide a better warmup because they move and lengthen the muscles at the same time.

Myth 4: I don’t have time to warmup.

Fact: Any warmup is better than none and just 5 to 10 minutes will do. There should always be time for doing some moving stretches. A good place to start? Do some light swinging exercises, lunges, and side bends before hitting a full drive.

Myth 5: My form can’t hurt me.

Fact: A lot of problems with golf can be solved by playing the game correctly. Many golfers grip their clubs too hard and end up with elbow problems. Others rely on their back and don’t use their legs properly, resulting in excessive stress on their back and shoulders. Using the proper form can help you avoid injuries. Making sure your golf clubs are fitted properly, and are not too long or too short, can also help with form.

Myth 6: I’ve injured myself and need to go straight to physical therapy.

Fact: Some of my patients begin treatment before getting a diagnosis, which means they don’t know the reason for the pain they’re experiencing. I’ve also seen patients with the wrong diagnosis all together. Finding the real reason behind your pain allows your physician to create a treatment plan that will work for you. Sometimes this involves physical therapy, other times it involves rest, rehabilitation, injections, or surgery.

Golf is an incredible game that provides relaxation, stress reduction, and enjoyment on a lot of different levels. One of the best parts of my job is being able to help move patients from “not golfing” back to “golfing” because of the pleasure I see on their faces. Even better is when I run into one of my patients during a round, because I know they’re back to being able to do the things they love. Best of all, though, is knowing I’ve been able to help people stay fit and play the game safely and well, season after season.

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Dr. Aaron Anderson is a sports medicine physician who specializes in treating bone, joint, and muscle injuries.