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Rotator Cuff Injuries Common to Golfers

What causes shoulder injuries for golfers and is there any way to avoid them?

Have you ever watched a child on a day that was supposed to be all about a long-awaited special event that was canceled? No matter what you try to do to distract them or make up for it with some other activity, as far as they are concerned, the day is a total loss. Is there anything that compares to their soliloquies on the unfairness of life and sighs of disappointment? Actually, there is. Try spending time with a golfer forced to cancel a tee time! Even worse is the golfer who has to totally stop playing until an injury, like a rotator cuff tear, can heal.

To the casual observer, golf may seem rather simple, but it is actually a fairly complex sport. To be good at it requires mastering specific techniques and then reproducing them over and over. Amateurs tend to become injured because they are out of shape to begin with, have a poor understanding of the mechanics of play or do not take the time to adequately warm up. Professional golfers master the mechanics and practice doing them the same way over and over, hundreds of times per day. This leads to repetitive motion injuries. Amateurs and pros alike suffer with injuries to the same common areas: wrist, elbow, lower back, knee and shoulder.

Shoulder Problems Common Among Golfers

Golf shoulder injuries fall into three basic types: overuse, trauma and joint degeneration. These lead to:

  • Rotator cuff tears
  • Long head of the biceps tendon injuries
  • Shoulder impingement
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Shoulder joint instability

Because it is so often called into play, the rotator cuff, which is comprised of the tendons and muscles that stabilize your shoulder joint, is an especially high risk area for golfers. The combination of overuse and poor mechanics can cause inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons, even leading to the more serious strains and tears. For golfers, this commonly happens because the muscles have not been conditioned to be able to withstand the force applied during the swing or simply because of too much repetitive motion.

Avoiding Rotator Cuff Injuries

At the risk of sounding obvious, the best way of avoiding rotator cuff injuries is to avoid the practices that create them. Of course, nothing can stop degenerative damage, but inadequate conditioning and repetitive movements can be addressed. Build up to extended play times. Take lessons to learn the proper mechanics. Practice active prevention by being consistent with stretching, and consider strength training.

Rotator cuff tear injuries are painful and can be serious. Treatment will likely include rest, ice and keeping compression on the shoulder to reduce inflammation. If that is not adequate, there may be the need for physical therapy, over-the-counter pain medications to reduce pain and inflammation, and possible surgery. While there is a good chance that surgery will not be required, it is important to consult with your healthcare professional. Left untreated, relatively minor symptoms associated with a rotator cuff injury can lead to conditions like a frozen shoulder or arthritis, which may be more difficult to treat.

For over 25 years, Peter McCann, MD has specialized in the treatment of shoulder and elbow injuries and conditions. Highly regarded for providing personalized service to his patients, Dr. McCann is Director of Orthopedic Surgery and Strategic Initiatives at Lenox Health Greenwich Village, part of Northwell Health.

If you have been diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury, are experiencing arm or shoulder pain, or have questions about any of our services, we invite you to schedule a consultation using our convenient online form by clicking here.

Posted in: Rotator Cuff Repair


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