The elbow joint is one of three major joints of the upper limb that help transfer energy/force from the golf club into the torso. It plays a critical role in both stabilizing a rigid lead arm as the club face makes contact with the golf ball and a hinge for the train arm in order to be able to rotate fully to generate torque through the torso prior to the downswing. The trail elbow also stabilizes the trail arm and helps turn the club face over after impact in order to keep the ball flight in line with your target. With either elbow, two of the more common injuries sustained at the elbow are lateral (outer) and medial (inner) epicondylitis, also known as tennis and golfer’s elbow, respectively. These injuries occur gradually, over time, and not suddenly because of one wrong swing. Although the pain and injury location are at the elbow, the problem is actually with the tissues in the forearm that control wrist and finger function. Tissue tension builds gradually, typically from repetitive strain through activities on and off the golf course. As tissue tension builds, repetitive stress of these tissues causes inflammation to build near or at the attachment of these forearm tissues at the elbow, know as the epicondyle. Here’s how you can be proactive to reduce the likelihood of dealing with one of these types of elbow injuries:
- Stretches are one of the easiest ways to help maintain forearm function/mobility. Make sure to stretch both the wrist and finger flexors (front) and extensors (back) by making sure you take your fingers and wrist into a maximal stretch. These should be done following exercises, especially following any upper body exercises or sports.
- Grip Size: The size of your grip could be the cause of an epicondylitis if the grip size (diameter) is not appropriately matched to your hand size. In most cases, grips can be too small for the size of your hand, causing you to have to grip the club much more firmly than necessary. This puts strain on the forearm and can lead to tissue contracture, repetitive strain and subsequent injury at the elbow.
- Wrist & Elbow Warm Ups: Before swinging the club, warming up the wrist and forearm is one of the easiest ways to help prep the upper limb for golf. With a club in your hand, hold the club midway down the shaft, and rotate the wrist in both directions with both the elbow bent first and then the elbow straight. Holding a club with both hands out in front of you, perform wrist extension (backwards) and flexion movements to help loosen the muscles of the forearm.