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Littleton Regional Hospital Offers Golfer Safety Tips

July 25, 2011

Most people hit the links to calm the mind, but golf can be stressful on the body. Swing too hard and you can develop tendinitis. Lug your clubs around all day and you could strain your back. If you're one of the 28 million golfers nationwide, take steps to avoid these common injuries during your next outing:

Golfer's elbow: If you overemphasize your wrists while swinging or accidentally hit the ground with your club, you could develop this painful tendinitis along the inner elbow.

Treat it: Your doctor may recommend rest, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications. If those don't help, you may need cortisone injections or surgery.

Prevent it: Stretch before playing, and strengthen your forearm muscles regularly. (Try wrist curls or squeezing a tennis ball.) Developing a smooth, slow golf swing can help, too.

Back pain: Whether you hunch over the ball, your golf bag is too heavy or your back just can't handle all the twisting you do while teeing off, back pain is a serious issue for golfers.

Treat it: Ice the painful area for the first two to three days, then switch to heat. Try over-the-counter painkillers if necessary. Don't lie down hoping to get better; bed rest isn't recommended. At night, sleep in the fetal position.

Prevent it: Warm up with a few practice swings, gradually increasing to your full range of motion. Between golf outings, use the rowing machine at the gym to strengthen your back muscles. If you prefer to walk the course, consider a wheeled golf bag.

Sunburn: You may not instinctively reach for sunscreen, but you'll be outside for hours during the sunniest part of the day, so without protection, you risk getting burned.

Treat it: Take a cool shower to soothe a burn, and then apply a moisturizing lotion like aloe vera to the affected areas. Anti-inflammatory medications can help with pain and soreness.

Prevent it: Liberally apply sunscreen half an hour before heading outside. Wear long sleeves and a broad-brimmed hat (though a golf visor is better than nothing).

Head injuries: Golfers suffer more than 8,000 head injuries annually. Sometimes, an errant ball is to blame. Other times, someone accidentally stands in the path of a swinging club.

Treat it: See a doctor or visit the emergency room, depending on the severity of the injury and whether you've lost consciousness.

Prevent it: Listen for people shouting "fore!" and stand back when someone else is swinging.

Littleton Regional Hospital's Dr. Lon Howard, Orthopaedic Surgeon is a golfer and sees many injuries related to golfing each year in his practice. Dr. Howard stresses that, "golfers need to enjoy themselves, but need to take precautions to prevent injury, particularly to the elbows and shoulders. These types of injuries can leave a golfer off the course for an entire season or longer. These tips are to help prevent injuries keeping golfers safe."

Originally appeared in Community Health.

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