Avoiding Shoulder Injuries
By Carol Beere, Registered FitForeGolf Physiotherapist

Much attention has been given to back injuries that beset many golfers. Equally limiting are shoulder injuries that usually occur in the lead shoulder. This article will explain how shoulder injuries occur and then suggest an exercise program to deal with the problem.

One of the main causes of shoulder injuries in golf is insufficient body rotation through and after impact causing the lead shoulder to elevate excessively rather than turn. Excessive elevation causes some of the muscles to be pinched under the cap of bone at the point of the shoulder. This muscle group is known as the rotator cuff muscles. The potential for injury is worsened by lack of muscle strength and flexibility in this very important group.

Rotator cuff injuries usually start as a mild inflammation within the tendon. If left untreated, they inevitably progress in severity and lead to fraying of the tendon or worse yet rupture of the muscle. Risks are particularly high for the senior golfer especially after taking a deep divot.

Another "deep divot" injury that can occur is in the small joint on top of the shoulder (referred to as the AC joint). It can also be injured from overuse caused by repeated compression when the upper arm is forcefully brought across and under the chin at the top of the backswing and at follow through. Repeated minor sprains may lead to osteoarthritis.

How does the golfer prevent these injuries? There are a variety of approaches including the correction of swing faults, the strengthening of rotator cuff muscles and stretching programs to gain more flexibility in the shoulder and upper body. Ice, anti-inflammatory medication and physiotherapy may be required to correct more persistent problems.

Rotator Cuff Strengthening Exercise:

Here’s a simple exercise to help avoid such injuries. Attach a piece of elastic tubing at elbow height to a door know or other immovable object then stand side-on to where the tubing is attached. While keeping your elbow bent to 90 degrees (note that your forearm will be horizontal)and your upper arm against your side at all times, rotate your lower arm out away from your body. Perform three sets of 10 to 30 repetitions on each side, feeling the elastic resistance each time. Fatigue should be felt in the back of the shoulder. Remember to stop if you feel pain.