Upper limb Injuries in Golf

Mr Hughes, senior clinician at the Upper Limb centre is a keen golfer being a member and regular player at Royal Birkdale Golf Club. As such, he has a good understanding of the importance this game can have for participating individuals. Golf continues to increase in popularity. With this increase in the numbers of golfers, our clinics are seeing more and more golf-related injuries. The shoulder, elbow and wrist are all commonly injured joints (Good function in all these areas is essential to the golf swing.)

Shoulder problems in golf are usually due to overuse injuries, but sudden severe injuries can occur (commonly when hitting the ground). Injuries to muscles and tendons around the shoulder range from minor sprains and strains to significant tears. The rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder and their tendons (as shown in the diagram) are active in controlling the golf swing. Though professionals play most days, their excellent technique is thought to prevent overuse injury. Injuries are most common in the leading arm. Inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons, or tendonitis, and even tears of the rotator cuff can occur with overuse or poor swing technique. Younger golfers tend to get problems with inflammation and strains, while older golfers may experience tendon tears and also arthritis problems.

The best treatment, at first, is to decrease playing time. Other treatments such as ice, physiotherapy, and anti-inflammatory tablets can be tried. If pain continues, a trip to your G.P. may be needed. They can decide whether referral to a specialist is required. Specialists may suggest injections into the shoulder or physiotherapy. They may also suggest getting x-rays or a scan. Some players continue to have pain and poor function, despite a thorough treatment programme. In this situation surgery may be necessary.

The rotator cuff tendons can become inflamed by bone spurs, which scratch on the rotator cuff. This is just one of the conditions which we treat arthroscopically (an examination or treatment using a camera and small incisions). If the tendons are significantly torn, these can also be repaired.

Shoulder problems in golfers can usually be avoided with proper lessons to improve technique. Warm-up exercises are also important, especially as the golfer gets older. However, if you do experience pain that does not improve within 7 to 10 days, you should see your doctor for an evaluation. Early referral and treatment should get you back onto the golf course quicker.

The Upper Limb Centre is happy to see patients referred with golfing injuries or any other arm problems. The team is led by orthopaedic surgeons who are all upper limb experts with NHS Consultant posts in the Lancashire area. Team members also include Consultant Anaesthetists  and Physiotherapists. There are also Consultant Radiologists on-site, with expertise in soft-tissue ultrasound and Magnetic Resonnance Imaging techniques. If you have experienced a shoulder or arm injury which is not improving why not consider a referral to the Upper Limb Centre.


© Peter James Hughes 2015