As a golfer, you’ll learn:

…Shoulder injuries are common

…How shoulder injuries happen

…The most common types of shoulder injuries

…Care and prevention of shoulder injuries

Shoulder Injuries are Common in Golfers

Although many view it as a leisure activity, as a serious golfer, you know golf can be a demanding sport with its own set of physical challenges and potential for injury. Your lead shoulder, (the left shoulder in the right-handed golfer or right shoulder in the left-handed golfer), is especially vulnerable. 

In fact, the Golf Channel lists shoulder problems as number four on its list of the top 10 golfing injuries. And a  2006 review of literature by McHardy, Pollard and Luo found that shoulders make up between 8% and 18% of all golf-related injuries. 

How Shoulder Injuries Occur When Golfing

There are two general classifications of injuries: Acute injuries come from a single, traumatic episode, like hitting a submerged tree root in a sand trap. Then there are overuse injuries, which occur over time, and often come from the stress you put on your back and shoulders when swinging. 

There are 5 main causes of both types of shoulder injuries while golfing:

…Poor swing mechanics

…Lack of leg strength

…Poor core strength

…Bad shoulder blade stabilization

…Poor shoulder external rotation

No matter what the cause of your shoulder injury, do not “play through the pain.” Only an expert can tell you what’s wrong, and you could turn a minor injury into a serious one that could sideline you for the season.

The Most Common Type of Shoulder Injuries

The modern golf swing, with its emphasis on distance, is harder on the body than the classic golf swing. With a classic golf swing, the hips are aligned with the shoulders and pelvic and shoulder rotation is equal. In the modern version, the hips are ahead of the shoulders and there is limited pelvic rotation. This, obviously, puts more stress on the shoulders and creates a greater potential for injury.

Golf is a unique sport when it comes to the shoulders. Each shoulder does a very specific and very opposite motion when swinging a club. The leading shoulder is forced and stretched into an extreme adducted (toward the body) position at the top of the backswing, while the non-leading shoulder is in an abducted (away from the body) externally rotated position. 

The leading shoulder is prone to:

>> Subacromial impingement – inflammation and impingement on rotator cuff tendons

>> AC joint pain –  injury to the joint at the top of your shoulder

>> Posterior instability – back of the shoulder socket

>> Rotator cuff tears – injury to a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint

The non-leading shoulder is prone to:

>> Subacromial impingement – inflammation and impingement on rotator cuff tendons

>> SLAP tear – an injury to the labrum of the shoulder, the ring of cartilage that surrounds the socket of the shoulder joint

>> Anterior instability – soft-tissue or bony injury allows the humeral head to subluxate or dislocate from the glenoid fossa

>> Rotator cuff tear – a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint

All of these sound painful – and they are! 

Care and Prevention of Shoulder Injuries

As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and this applies to you and your golf game.

These tips should help you prevent shoulder injuries:

>> Use proper equipment. Be sure your clubs are in good shape and the right length and weight for you.

>> Use proper technique. If your shoulder or shoulders are sore after a golf game, your swing likely needs refinement.

>> Exercise to improve the strength, endurance and flexibility of your rotator cuff, shoulder blade muscles, trapezius, large back muscles and large chest (pectoral) muscles. Weight resistance training can really help with this.

>> Learn to use your hips, legs and trunk to transfer weight and power consistently

>> Make sure your shoulder motion comes after the hip and trunk motion in the downswing.

>> Keep your hands in front of your body during the swing

>> Before a golf game, warm up your muscles by stretching your arms, shoulders and back and doing some brief cardiovascular exercises, such as a little bit of jogging.

Even the best golfers can suffer injuries on the course. Don’t ignore pain, or even those injuries that could self-resolve with some rest could turn into a date with a surgeon. Proper aftercare is essential.

But, not all golf shoulder injuries require a trip to the doctor. If you have mild or moderate pain that didn’t begin suddenly, decrease the amount of time you play, use over-the-counter pain medication and use ice for the first 48 hours, and then switch to heat, as long as it doesn’t increase swelling. Your next step should be a visit to a sports physical therapist to find out what’s going on.

It’s time to call your doctor if your pain doesn’t subside after seven-to-10 days of home care and rest. And, contact your doctor right away if the pain occurred suddenly and was intense. If rotating your shoulder in a particular direction causes excruciating pain, call your doctor immediately; ditto with numbness or tingling in the shoulder or arm.

If you want to improve your game and stay healthy, a great idea is to have a team consisting of golf professionals to analyze your swing, a physical therapist for your health and rehabilitation, and an exercise professional to maintain and build strength. 

True Sports Physical Therapy – Where Maryland Athletes Rehab

At True Sports, we’re sports-focused because you’re sports-focused. The best physical therapists in Baltimore and Maryland provide the highest level of sports physical therapy and expertise you need to get back to your sport. With six convenient state-of-the-art locations to choose from, any athlete who takes their rehab seriously can get awesome care and extraordinary results. Select your location and schedule an appointment and have True Sports get you back to your team. For questions about insurance or self-pay rates, please call our office at 1-401-946-1672.