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How to Avoid and Treat Shoulder Injuries in Golf

April 03, 2023

Golf is a low-impact sport, but like any activity, it has the potential for injuries. And while it might be surprising, shoulder injuries aren’t uncommon.

“’Choppers’ who pound the club into the ground are most at risk for shoulder injuries,” says Paul Protomastro, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with the Connecticut Orthopaedic Institute at St. Vincent’s Medical Center.

Dr. Protomastro breaks down the most common shoulder injuries in golf, how to prevent them and what you can do if you run into shoulder problems this golf season.

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Common shoulder injuries in golfers

It only takes one bad shot to cause a shoulder injury while golfing.

“Errant shots that take a chunk of earth or a tree root can cause tears in the rotator cuff,” Dr. Protomastro says. “Overzealous follow-through – which is a rare problem – can cause impingement of the arms against the shoulder blades at the finish. This pinching puts excessive load on the rotator cuff tendons.”

For others, the wear and tear of the golf game can add up over time.

“The obsessed tend to practice and play to the point of exhaustion which can alter mechanics and stress shoulders too much,” explains Dr. Protomastro.

Common overuse injuries include:

  • Overuse shoulder bursitis from excessive practice on plastic mats at the driving range.
  • Shoulder arthritis can develop in both professionals and amateurs from millions of cyclic loads across the shoulders.

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How to avoid shoulder injury in golf

The leading shoulder is more prone to injury as it impacts the ball first and is rotated the most at the finish.

Tips to avoid injury include:

  • Stretching neck, shoulders, core and lower body before golfing.
  • Using resistance bands to strengthen shoulder muscles and tendons along with light weight lifting.
  • Gentle warm-up for 15-20 minutes before teeing off.

“Over-swinging can cause injury,” says Dr. Protomastro. “The golf swing is a fluid motion that is optimized by timing and technique. Muscling shots rarely leads to great results and can cause structural damage to the shoulders.”

> Related: Pickleball Is Growing Fast, and So Are the Injuries

Treatments for shoulder injuries

If you do find yourself with shoulder pain or injury from golfing, it is best to speak to your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis.

“Rest, anti-inflammatory pills, cortisone injections and a rehabilitation program can fix most overuse problems and minor injuries,” says Dr. Protomastro.

If pain persists, MRI imaging may be needed to look for structural damage. Surgical intervention for rotator cuffs, bicep and labral tears is often necessary.

When pain is caused by arthritis that prohibits play, shoulder replacement surgery can get the golfer back on the course.