As spring heralds months of sunny, warm weather ahead on the East Coast, you might be getting ready for a round. But if you haven’t hit the course for several months, your joints and muscles may be feeling rickety, which makes them more prone to injury.

While golf is a relatively safe and low-impact sport, it’s important to follow a few practical tips to avoid injuries that can keep you off the course. Dr. Robert Dow Hoffman, an orthopedic surgeon at Hilton Head Orthopedics - Bluffton, offers these three recommendations for ensuring you comfortably enjoy the golf season ahead, without pain or injury.

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Don’t overdo it

A good golf swing looks effortless, but in reality it engages a number of muscles: the trapezius and rotator cuff in the shoulders, the obliques in the abdomen, the hamstrings in the back of the thighs and the erector spinae muscles in the back. All these muscles are susceptible to injury if you work them too hard without periods of recovery.

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Dr. Robert Dow Hoffman

“Playing golf is a repetitive activity, and most of the golf injuries we see tend to be overuse-related,” Dow Hoffman said. “So, if you're new to the game, or you have not played in a while, playing five days in a row can lead to injury.”

Hoffman said he recommends golfers practice conditioning, which means starting slowly and gradually increasing the activity over time.

Rest is also an important consideration if you have a chronic pain condition that isn’t caused by golf but can be inflamed or irritated with activity. Hoffman said orthopedic doctors frequently see patients with osteoarthritis whose chronic pain prevents them from enjoying their golf game. For them, rest is equally important, and an orthopedic doctor can help determine the best routine to help avoid pain. This may include prescription medications, injections and/or physical therapy.

“There are a lot of nonoperative treatments for things like hip and knee pain that can help your less-than-perfect joints function reasonably well on the golf course,” Hoffman said.

Properly warm up

An important part of avoiding golf injuries is establishing an easy, go-to warmup routine to help prepare the muscles for activity. A good golf warmup takes only a few minutes and doesn’t require any equipment. It’s key to focus on the areas of the body that rotate during a golf swing.

“Maintaining flexibility in the back and shoulders is very important,” Dow Hoffman said. “The twist motion of a golf swing puts a lot of stress on your back and shoulders.”

Standing warm-up movements to include are:

  • Trunk rotations: Hook your arms around your golf club lengthwise across your back, then rotate your trunk and head to the left until you feel a stretch. Hold this position for 30 seconds then repeat the stretch to the other side.
  • Hip stretches: Place your hands in front of you on a golf club for balance. Place your right ankle on the outside of your left knee. Bend your left knee and lean back as if you are sitting on a chair. Lower the chest toward the shin. Hold this position for three breaths, then switch sides.
  • Bodyweight squats: Start with your feet shoulder width apart, your arms extended in front of you and your back straight. Slowly bend your knees, focusing on pushing your weight onto your heels and keeping your knees in line with your feet. Repeat 10 times, inhaling when standing and exhaling when squatting.