Golf season is upon us. With most of the country experiencing warmer weather, golfers are looking to book tee times and start practicing at the range. Golf can be a great activity for people of all ages to enjoy the outdoors and get some light exercise. Unfortunately, a nagging ache or pain in the Spring can evolve into a full-blown injury. Nothing can derail a summer season of golf faster than a painful swing.
Wrist injuries in golf occur in several predictable ways. They can generally be categorized into a few categories; inflexibility, overuse, and impact. In this blog, we will take a look at those three categories and provide target exercises to prevent injuries.
First, we start with a quick screen of your wrist mobility. We do this first because a stiff wrist is detrimental to your swing, no matter how strong or coordinated you are. Healthy wrists need to be mobile. The quick screen uses a position called the prayer position. Touch your palms against each other in front of your chest. Now lower your hands until your wrists make a 90-degree angle. The goal is to keep your palms in contact while passing 90 degrees.
For the second half of the test, start with the back of your hands against each other in front of your chest, but start lower. Now raise your hands until your wrists make another 90-degree angle. Again, the goal is to keep your hands in contact while passing the 90-degree mark.
If you failed the quick screen, try this technique. Place your wrist off the edge of a box. Slightly lift the back of your hand toward the ceiling (wrist extension). With your opposite hand, grasp your wrist at its narrowest point. With this opposite hand, gently apply pressure towards the floor. Alternate pressure on and off for 5 seconds each, for a full minute.
An overuse injury in golf tends to occur with increasing your volume of golf too quickly or significantly changing your swing without a gradual increase in return to play. Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) is a common name for this type of injury. Your go-to exercises to address overuse injuries are isometric exercises. An isometric exercise is one in which you contract your muscles, but no motion occurs (think a plank).
Hold a dumbbell with your hand and wrist extended over the edge of a table. Your wrist and forearm should be in a straight line – no bend in the wrist. Turn your palm down if you tend to have pain on the outside of your wrist or forearm. If you tend to have pain on the inside of your wrist or forearm, turn your palm upward towards the ceiling. Try starting with a 1-5 pound dumbbell and three rounds of 20-30 seconds, as long as this is relatively pain-free. Over a few weeks work up to 5 rounds of 45 seconds.
Hold a golf club, preferably a lighter club like a putter or iron, at the grip with the head facing the ceiling. Your arm will be off the edge of a table. Slowly rotate 90 degrees so that your palm ends up facing upwards. This should take about 5 seconds. Use both hands to return to the starting position. Aim for three rounds of 5 to 10 reps initially. If this is painful, start with your hand further down the shaft of the club to shorten the lever until the motion can be done without pain.
An impact can either be the hardest or easiest golf injury to address. Let’s start with the hard version. We need to ensure you don’t have a bone stress fracture in your palm. A physical therapist or occupational therapist, physician, or other healthcare provider can screen this for you. However, if your palm is fine, and you are having wrist or forearm pain and losing distance on your shots, it may not a bone issue. Instead, it may be your muscles, and they need to get stronger.
Form a loop with a resistance band. Grasp the bottom part of the loop with the hand you wish to work with. Grab the tail ends of the band with the non-working hand. Keep your elbow bent to 90 degrees and tucked into your side. Now turn your working hand towards the ceiling without changing your elbow position. Pause and return to the starting position.
Loop a towel through the hand of a kettlebell. You should be able to use a fairly heavy weight. Think of starting at a weight that does not cause pain and provides a comfortable level of resistance. If you are using a dumbbell, try to loop it around twice to make sure with weight is secure. Keep your hand pointing straight down to the floor so your forearm and knuckles make a straight line. Walk 25 feet out and back, keeping your palm facing toward your body.
Finally, a point of consideration for your long-term exercise. Exercising at a gym with machines can certainly benefit our bodies. We can strengthen key muscles and be in a comfortable position. However, machines do come with drawbacks. One of these is a lack of challenge to our grip strength. The handles of a weight machine travel on a fixed path, so there is no need to stabilize the weight. When we use free weights (dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, etc.), there is no fixed path. We need to use our stabilizing strength to manage our weight while we exercise. With that in mind, challenge yourself to try a free-weight version of an upper-body exercise. Instead of the chest press machine, try a dumbbell bench press. Instead of a machine row, try a bent-over barbell row. Switching to free weights can appropriately challenge your forearm grip and stabilizing muscles to prevent long-term injuries.
If you have more questions about managing your wrist or forearm pain, please contact your local Athletico Physical Therapy clinic and schedule a free assessment. Free Assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.
*Per federal guidelines, beneficiaries of plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VHA and other federally funded plans are not eligible for free assessments.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.