Dear Savvy Senior,
I used to think golf was a leisurely game, but at age 68, my back and wrist sure don’t think so. Do you have any tips or know of any equipment that can help seniors? —Aching Golfer
Most golfers don’t think much about it, but the game — played by about 25 million Americans — can take a surprising toll on the body. And for older golfers especially, who aren’t as strong or flexible as they once were, it can lead to multiple aches and pains as well as injuries. Here’s what you should know.
A Rough Game
According to the National Safety Council, last year golfers suffered around 35,000 injuries that required a trip to the emergency room or doctor. This is due to the simple fact that golf is a physical game that requires lots of twisting and turning, gripping and swinging, and bending and stooping, which places a lot of stress and strain on lower backs, hips, knees, shoulders, hands, wrists and elbows. And while walking a 9 or 18-hole round of golf over hilly terrain is great exercise, it, too, can take a physical toll on the body.
On top of that, many golfers drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages before and during play, and aren’t aware that prescription medications, especially some heart medications, interfere with the body’s ability to cool itself — all of which increases the risk of heat sickness.
What to Do
You can head off some of the physical stresses that come with golf by improving your golf fitness and by warming up before you play. Older golfers especially need to take time stretch their muscles, focusing on their legs, shoulders and back (see Mayoclinic.com/health/golf-stretches/SM00089 for a slide show of golf stretches).
And for instruction on how to improve your golf fitness and reduce injury there’s a variety of resources you can turn to such as the Titleist Performance Institute (www.mytpi.com), where you’ll find tips on golf exercises, stretching and injury prevention. It also offers a searchable database to find a fitness pro, lets you solicit expert advice online and more. Golf Fitness Magazine Web site (www.golffitness-magazine.com) is another good resource that offers a golf fitness survey, blog, online exercise videos and a wide variety of helpful fitness articles. There are also dozens of books that provide tips on golf fitness such as "Dr. Divot’s Guide to Golf Injuries" and "Golf Rx" which you can find online at Amazon.com.
In addition to improving your fitness, there’s also a variety of golfing gadgets and equipment that can help too. Here are some different items that can help, depending on your problem:
Stiff, achy back: Because golf is a game that requires a lot of repetitive bending and stooping, back problems are a common problem for older golfers. To address this issue, the Uprightgolf company (www.uprightgolf.com; 319-268-0939) offers a variety of affordable products that eliminate the bending and stooping that comes with teeing the ball up, repairing divots, marking the ball while on the green, retrieving the ball, picking a club up off the ground and more.
Hand and wrist pain: Gripping a golf club can be challenging for golfers who have carpal tunnel syndrome, hand or wrist arthritis or limited hand strength. To help, there are specially designed golf gloves (see www.bionicgloves.com, www.powerglove.com and www.suregripsportsglove.com) you can purchase that can enhance your grip. Or you can get larger, softer grips installed on your golf clubs, for around $5 to $10 per club, which makes them easier and more comfortable to hold onto. Your golf shop manager should be able to help you with this.