How to Prevent and Treat Wrist Injuries for Golfers

Golf wrist pain is very common. Amongst both amatuers and pros alike, tendinitis and other repetitive stress injuries to the wrist will often keep golfers in the club house instead of on the green. Here orthopedic surgeon Dr. William J. Bryan gives practical advise to both avoid and treat these common ails.

A recent study of 225 professional golfers showed a 34% incidence of wrist and hand injuries. Two-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson blamed hitting too many balls out of the rough for a wrist injury that caused him to miss the cut at last year's U.S. Open.

Making a few changes in mechanics can help golfers avoid painful wrist injuries.

"You will lessen the whip on the wrist if you slow down your back swing," said Bryan, an orthopedic surgeon with The Methodist Center for Sports Medicine in Houston. "Also, try and flatten out the back swing. This will decrease the chances that the club will come down, hit the ground, and take a big divot."

Most wrist injuries occur in the lead hand (left for right-handed, right for left-handed) and are due to overuse. The most common is tendonitis, or swelling of the tendons responsible for wrist movement. Most will experience pain in the wrist as well as swelling and a creaking or grinding sensation when the wrist is flexed.

"The alignment of your hands can also contribute to wrist pain. Whether you use the overlapping, interlocking, or the ten-fingered grip, it's imperative that both hands be in parallel alignment," said Bryan, a PGA consulting physician. "This alignment makes a natural wrist motion possible and can help prevent injury."

Switching from a steel shaft to a graphite shaft will also help decrease weight and stress on the wrist during the backswing. Thicker grips on the club can also help ease the pain from both tendonitis and arthritis.

If you constantly hit out of the rough, sand or try to hit buried balls, or if you hit numerous balls off of the practice tee, you are increasing your chances of developing a wrist injury.

One way to try and prevent wrist injuries is to have strong core muscles (stomach, hips, etc.) If you have a weak core, you tend to throw the club at the ball to get more velocity and distance. This can put more strain on the wrist. If you develop a strong core it will be much easier to let the body swing the club.

"If you begin to experience pain in your wrist, take a couple of weeks off," Bryan said. "Sometimes rest is the best medicine. A few lessons from a golf pro to improve your mechanics might not hurt either."

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