Teeing off again.
The re-opening of Thailand’s golf courses this weekend makes this the perfect time for a brief look into the medical side of golf.
Simply put, golf has many health benefits. As with other moderate-intensity sports, regular golfing is associated with improved cardiac risk factors such as reduced body weight, better cholesterol profiles and better blood sugar levels. Golf has also been shown to improve muscle co-ordination, balance and strength; factors that play an increasingly important role in injury prevention as a person ages.
Bone strength and bone density are increased in female golfers and caddies, reducing their risk of osteoporosis fractures. Perhaps the greatest gains though, especially in view of the recent homeisolation protocols, are the mental health benefits that come from fresh air, exercise and being out in wide open spaces…or bunkers.
You may know from personal experience, however, that golf’s impact on health is not always so positive. Studies find that between 15% and 40% of amateur golfers are injured playing the game every year, with most injuries affecting the spine, elbow, wrist and shoulders.
Sub-optimal swing mechanics rather than over-use are largely responsible; a problem made worse as mobility and flexibility decrease with age. Bear in mind that after not playing for perhaps a month or so, your own golfing flexibility may have deteriorated since the last time you played.
So what can be done to reduce golf-related injuries? The first step to fixing a problem is to identify it and to this end various self-help tests can be found online that will help you check the range of movement in your spine, neck and hips. Alternatively, you might consider the services of a physiotherapist to assess and advise on suitable flexibility exercises.
It could be said that professionals get fit to play golf and amateurs play golf to get fit. Pre-golfing preparation is not just for the pros though. Strength training has been shown to reduce sporting injuries at all levels. The best exercises to consider for golf are those with elements of power, balance and co-ordination at the same time; ‘body-weight’ exercises are ideal in this regard.
When you arrive at the course, always take several minutes to loosen up your muscles – before any practice swings. Pay particular attention to your shoulders and spine. During the round itself, concentrate on form rather than distance, and remember that lower back injuries are usually caused by doing really simple things badly, such as having poor technique when bending to retrieve or place a ball and when lifting your clubs in and out of the car.
Hopefully your return to golf is a pleasant, successful and painless experience. Stay well and remember to take anti-Covid hygiene measures as you play.
The Be Well Team Hua Hin, 3 May 2020