Time to Tee Up: Preparing Your Shoulders for Golf Season

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Dr. Kevin Plancher with Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine explains golf-related shoulder injuries and offers tips on preseason conditioning.

Dr. Kevin Plancher

Because shoulders are so crucial to golfing, they also account for a large chunk of injuries experienced by golfers.

As temperatures rise with the start of spring, so do golfers’ hopes for their next eagle or hole in one. But such feats aren’t possible unless golfers’ shoulders are primed and ready – a goal preseason conditioning can promote, says orthopaedic surgeon Kevin D. Plancher, MD, founder of Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.

Because shoulders are so crucial to golfing, they also account for a large chunk of injuries experienced by golfers. For amateur golfers – who number more than 37 million in the United States – the shoulder is the fourth most commonly injured body area, according to the Orthopedic Journal at Harvard Medical School.

“The fact is, playing golf well relies heavily on the strength and fitness of the muscles, tendons and joints in the shoulders just to drive the ball off the tee,” Dr. Plancher says. “As much as golf involves the entire body, a solid golf game isn’t attainable without your shoulders working well.”

Common Golf-Related Shoulder Injuries
What are the most prevalent shoulder injuries stemming from golfing? Essentially, Dr. Plancher says they fall into three types:

  • Overuse injuries caused by too much golfing and/or poor form. These include rotator cuff tendon inflammation and tears.
  • Traumatic injuries that happen suddenly during play. These include strains and tears.
  • Joint degeneration caused primarily by aging. These include arthritis and bone spurs.

Many golf-related shoulder injuries are preventable with forethought and common-sense measures, notes Dr. Plancher, also a Clinical Professor in Orthopaedics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

“Do sensible things, such as stopping play if your shoulder starts hurting during a game,” he says. “Avoid carrying a golf bag with a sore shoulder, and learn good technique for your swing.”

Preseason conditioning tips
Joining other top preventive measures to avoid shoulder injuries from golfing is embarking on preseason training well in advance of your first springtime tee time, Dr. Plancher says. Ideally, preseason training exercises will improve the strength, endurance and flexibility of the shoulder’s rotator cuff, shoulder blade muscles, large back muscles and large chest muscles.

Dr. Plancher suggests incorporating these techniques into your preseason golf prep:

  • Head rolls: Roll your ear gently to one side, toward the shoulder. Tilt head back and forth, repeating on opposite side. Continue for 60 seconds.
  • Shoulder stretches: Raise right arm in front of you, then bring to left, wrapping left elbow around right arm and pulling that arm closer to your chest. Reverse for left side. Continue 2-3 minutes.
  • Side stretches: With feet shoulder-width apart, raise right arm directly above head and lean shoulders to the left, swaying right hip slightly out. Feel the stretch along the right side of your body. Reverse for the left side. Continue 1-2 minutes.
  • Prone T: Lie face down on floor with a folded towel under your forehead. Arms should be out to the sides with palms facing floor (the T shape). Squeeze shoulder blades together and left hands off floor until parallel to floor. Hold for 3 seconds and lower, repeating 10-12 times.
  • Lunge with a Twist: Stand in upright position and step forward with your right leg, maintaining your right knee over your right ankle. Rotate your trunk to the left and then return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise on the opposite side. A pole or chair can be used, if needed, to assist with balance. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side.
  • Forearm Plank with Arm Raise: Place your forearms on the ground with the elbows aligned below the shoulders. Raise your right arm out in front of you and hold for 2 seconds then lower back to the starting position. Repeat with the left arm. Perform 10 times on each side and then rest. Perform 3 rounds.
  • Reverse Chop with a Squat: Start in a squatting position, holding a weight or medicine ball with both hands next to your left hip. Keeping your arms straight, raise the weight across your body and overhead above your right shoulder while standing up from the squatting position. Lower back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times and then switch to the opposite side. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

“The best 18 holes happen not only with great weather on a great course, but because you’ve prepared your body for the rigors of the game,” says Dr. Plancher, who lectures globally on issues related to orthopaedic procedures and sports injury management. “If your shoulders aren’t ready, your swing will suffer – and so will your score. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to a season-ending injury, which is the worst sand trap of all.”

Kevin D. Plancher, MD, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon and the founder of Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.

Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine is a group of fellowship-trained surgeons with expertise in hip, knee and shoulder arthroplasty, sports medicine, hand and microvascular surgery, foot and ankle and cartilage specialty procedures. Offices are located in NYC and Greenwich, CT with office hours 6 days a week. http://www.plancherortho.com

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