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It's PGA Champiopnship time: Tips to reduce injury risk on a golf course

Monkey Business Images
Monkey Business Images

(CBS News) With the 2012 PGA Championship golf tournament in full swing, many fans may be eager to hit the links themselves.

But according to Dr. James Gladstone, associate professor of orthopaedics and sports medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, some of them may face injury risks when playing golf.

Gladstone told HealthPop that avid golfers especially may risk injury because of how they swing the club.

"Anytime you have repetitive overuse, when you're swinging the same way more or less," you can risk getting hurt, said Gladstone.

One problem is what's called golfer's tendonitis, that relates to the pronator and flexor muscles of the elbow. The flexor is the muscle that allows people to bend the wrist down (without extending it) and curl their fingers. The pronator muscle is the one that allows them to rotate the palm from facing upwards to facing down. They all come together at a tendon attachment that forms a bump on the inner side of the elbow. Over time, the repetitive swing could cause inflammation, or tendonitis, in this area, and it's referred to as "golfer's elbow." "Tennis elbow" on the other hand affects the outer side of the elbow.

How can it be treated?

"The first steps are to back off what you're doing ice and take some anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil or Aleve and stretch," said Gladstone. If that doesn't work, physical therapy or seeing a doctor for a cortisone injection is an option, and as a last resort, people can undergo surgery.

Rotator cuff tendonitis and wrist tendonitis are other potential injury risks that go hand-in-hand with golfer's elbow - they are caused by repetitive overuse. Some golfers may have an underlying weakness in their rotator cuff or shoulder, which makes the ball-and-socket joint of it move too much, causing it to rub against the bone, leading to inflammation. Treatments for these ailments are similar to elbow tendonitis, but may also include electrical stimulation from physical therapy.

Other potential risks on the links include a twisted ankle from walking the course or a torn meniscus in the knee from deep-squatting to line up a putt - that strain can put the meniscus at risk.

Anytime you hit the golf course, Gladstone says you should stretch out your whole body, starting with your back, shoulders and elbows because everything you do to get power comes out of the body's core, up the legs and through the back and elbow. "So you don't want to be tight and stiff at the beginning," said Gladstone.

And consult an expert before you buy clubs to make sure you're getting the proper size and weight.

Said Gladstone, "If the weight or grip isn't right, it'll throw off your mechanics and you stress muscles and tendons in a bad way."