One in three Americans either watch, read about, or play golf, according to the National Golf Foundation. Roughly one-third of this amount actually participate in the sport at least once per year. Some of these individuals test their skills on the golf course. Others visit ranges, simulators, and other golf-related venues.
This high level of participation is good news as research has connected golf with better mental and physical health. It’s also a great way to stay active while enjoying time with family and friends. The bad news is that, all too often, a golf injury occurs. An area of the body that is especially at risk is the knee.
Studies reveal that as many as 18 percent of golf players will sustain a knee injury. This number includes both amateur and professional players. Additionally, those in higher age brackets seem to have a higher level of injury risk. Why is golf so hard on the knee?
When executing a golf swing, the knee is forced to twist. This twisting motion can cause damage to the knee joint. It’s also hard on the surrounding soft tissues. This damage can result in pain.
Sometimes the pain is not so much about an actual tear or strain as it is overuse. An overuse injury is possible when a lot of time is spent on the course. This risk is even higher if proper golf swing techniques are not used.
There are a few knee conditions worthy of being included in golf’s common injury category. Rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one. The ACL is a ligament that connects the thigh to the shin. As such, it helps stabilize the knee. An ACL rupture or tear can occur due to load and force during a golf swing.
A meniscus tear is another common injury among golfers. Each knee has two menisci or pieces of cartilage that serve as a cushion within the knee area. The medial meniscus is located on the inside of the knee. The lateral meniscus is on the outside. Either one of these cartilage pieces can be torn during a forceful knee twist. Surgery is required to fix a meniscal tear.
Some golfers experience pain in the knee due to arthritis. Arthritis is a condition that affects almost one in four U.S. adults. It creates chronic pain in and around the joints. Osteoarthritis is a wear-and-tear form of arthritis. Therefore, it can occur with excessive golf play.
While this article lays out some of the most common knee injuries in golf, it should be noted that the knee isn’t the only joint at risk during this sport. Injuries to the elbow are common too. For instance, medial epicondylitis—also known as golfer’s elbow—is a form of tendonitis that can be incredibly painful. Injury can also occur to the hip and shoulder joints. An example of the latter is damage to the rotator cuff.
Achilles tendonitis is another top concern for those who play golf. During the golf swing, a lot of pressure is placed on the tendon that runs along the bottom of the foot. Over time, this can create inflammation, leading to pain in the heel area.
The first key to keeping a golf-related knee injury at bay is using proper form when executing a golf swing. This involves standing as upright as possible, keeping knee bending to a minimum during the swing itself. Wearing golf shoes with spikes can also minimize knee twisting at this point in the game.
Of course, there is a lot more that goes into a golf swing than this. Therefore, it may be helpful to hire a golf instructor for a session or two. This person can teach the ins and outs of a healthy golf stance. They may also recognize when you’re doing something that puts your knee at risk.
A second way to avoid injury to the knee during golf is strengthening the muscles that support the knee joint. Focus on building the quads, hamstrings, and calves. The stronger these muscles are, the better they are at supporting the knee in golf’s most common movements. This type of strength training routine can help prevent injury. It might even improve your golf game.
If knee pain already exists, it’s important to engage in cardio exercises that are easy on this joint. Walking and swimming are two. Low-impact aerobics is another option. These exercise routines help increase your heart rate while also being easier on the knee joint.
Other injury prevention strategies work best when executed on game day. Game-related prevention includes properly warming up before even hitting your first ball. Get the knees ready to engage in the sport by walking to the starting hole versus using a cart. Do a little stretching as well. This increases the flexibility of the surrounding soft tissues to better support golfing motions.
Also, pay attention to your form during the entire golf game. This includes not only during the swing but also when picking up the ball and carrying the golf bag. Improper movements in any of these activities can result in knee damage and pain.
Do you feel pain in the knee joint with every golf swing? If so, this could be a sign that you have a sports injury. So too is knee pain that won’t go away.
Mild knee pain can sometimes be resolved by spending some time away from the course. Take a few days off and give the knee joint time to heal. Icing the area can help as well. The cold helps reduce swelling and can ease the pain. Wearing a knee brace offers additional support to this joint.
Certain knee exercises may also boost recovery from a golf injury. These include foam rolling and stretching the muscles that support the knee. Both activities work to improve blood flow to the knee area. Oxygen and nutrients have a clearer path to damaged tissue. This assists with reducing inflammation and swelling.
When icing, wearing a knee support, and knee exercises don’t offer relief, physical therapy may be the next step. A physical therapist can prescribe movements designed to target the knee area. Attending therapy also ensures that you’re actively working to achieve knee recovery.
If the knee injury is severe, surgery may be needed. This could involve repairing a torn meniscus or, in some cases, may require total knee replacement. Knee replacement surgery likely means that you’ll spend quite some time off the course. This makes injury prevention key to being able to participate in the sport you love.
If you have a passion for helping people rehabilitate after sustaining an injury, you may want to consider earning your Exercise Therapy Certification. This course teaches you how to help clients recover from a variety of injuries. You’ll also learn the exercises that can best help clients manage chronic health conditions.
National Golf Foundation - Golf Industry Facts. Ngf.org. (2022). Retrieved 15 March 2022, from https://www.ngf.org/golf-industry-research/.Murray AD, Daines L, Archibald D, et alThe relationships between golf and health: a scoping review. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2017;51:12-19.Baker, M. L., Epari, D. R., Lorenzetti, S., Sayers, M., Boutellier, U., & Taylor, W. R. (2017). Risk Factors for Knee Injury in Golf: A Systematic Review. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 47(12), 2621–2639. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0780-5Arthritis. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP). (2022). Retrieved 15 March 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/arthritis.htm.
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According to the American Sports Data Company Inc., numerous employment opportunities are opening up in facilities for health & fitness professionals who have an expertise in Post-Rehab exercise. Nearly 1,000 hospitals in the US alone have already opened fitness facilities and hundreds more are in various stages of development. The broad goal of this certificate program is to train students for an entry-level position in Exercise Therapy through distance education.