The 2012 golf season is now starting at many courses in the Okanagan. Soon every avid golfer will be in full swing.
In past years, I’ve usually written this early article about the basics of good injury prevention, such as golf strength conditioning, performing a warm-up and stretch before playing and making smart decisions around the golf course that could limit the impact of the swing on your body.
This year I decided to write about a specific golf condition that affects the inside of the elbow. In physiotherapy, we call this condition medial epicondylitis of the elbow. The lay term is golfer’s elbow.
This condition is not to be confused with tennis elbow, which also affects the elbow but in a different location.
Golfer’s elbow occurs on the inside of the elbow, where the forearm flexor muscles attach to end of the upper arm bone (the humerus).
In a golfer it will usually occur on inside of the trail side elbow. The trail side elbow would be the right elbow of a right handed golfer. This injury can occur from over gripping the club or from wrist action during the swing.
More commonly it happens after a sudden force such as when you hit a shot too fat.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term hitting the ball fat, it means taking a little too much divot or earth when you swing down on the ball.
When the club suddenly hits the ground too hard the body is forced to absorb that force. The inside of the trail side elbow is one area that takes the brunt of this force.
The golfer will feel pain on the inside of the elbow, made worse with gripping and flexing the wrist.
There may be swelling present but often it is very mild. On subsequent swings pain may be felt at impact with the ball.
If you feel you’ve suffered this injury then you should focus on icing the inside of your elbow for 15 minutes every couple hours for the first two days after injury.
Very gentle stretching can be done by using your other hand to extend your wrist and fingers. A light stretch should be felt along the inside of the forearm.
To make the stretch stronger you should also keep the affected elbow straight during the stretch.
There are braces on the market that go around the forearm and apply pressure to the forearm muscles. These braces work to dissipate the force put on the elbow by the muscle contraction so they can be helpful during the healing process.
When you do start playing again, you should make sure you get a good warm up prior to playing and perform the wrist stretch I described above a couple times after some light swinging.
Once you are playing, be aware of shots that have the potential to cause extra stress to the elbow. An example may be a ball sitting down in the rough or nestled up near a root.
And remember, this injury doesn’t only occur with golf. If you start getting pain on the inside of your elbow after shovelling or doing some other work around the house, you can also use the advice.
Your physical therapist can treat it and guide your progression back to activity. If your condition is not getting better you should seek advice from your health care provider.
I will be doing a lecture on golf injury prevention Tuesday, March 27, 6 p.m., at the downtown Sun City Physiotherapy location.
Please RSVP the Sun City Phsyiotherapy clinic at 250-861-8056 if you plan to attend.