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Golfer's elbow vs. tennis elbow and how to prevent these overuse injuries

Golf and tennis elbow are both forms of tendinitis that affect the anchor points on either side of the elbow joint (the epicondyles).

If you start developing discomfort in the tendon that attaches on the inner side of the elbow joint, you may be showing symptoms of medial epicondylitis, or golfer’s elbow. This repetitive strain or overuse injury affects the muscles and tendons that flex and inwardly rotate the forearm.

If the pain occurs on the outer side of the elbow joint, it's called lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, and involves the muscles and tendons that extend the wrist.

Both of these conditions are caused by overuse; repeatedly stressing tendons and muscles past their level of tolerance.

Interestingly, tennis players can develop either form of epicondylitis. Backhand swings are associated with injury to the tendons on the outside of the elbow (lateral) that are responsible for extension of the wrist. While serves, forehands or topspin shots are associated with medial epicondylitis and the action of wrist flexion and pronation of the forearm.

When swinging a golf club, degeneration occurs with repetitive forced wrist extension and forearm supination following activities involving wrist flexion and forearm pronation.

There are many beneficial exercises for both conditions, but today’s video focuses on exercises that can help prevent medial epicondylitis - golfer’s elbow.

Try the exercises Master Instructor Trainer Moira Merrithew demonstrates in this video using the Foam Cushion B, Toning Balls (2 lbs), Strength Tubing.

Tips to improve your golf game and prevent injuries

  • Consult with a golf professional to ensure optimal form during your golf swing. Often misunderstanding the golf swing can lead to bad habits that may cause injury.
  • Take time to breathe and develop an inner body awareness of what your optimal movement patterning should be throughout the golf swing.
  • Be conscious of any compensations you may be making within your swing, and explore if this is happening due to a lack of mobility, tightness or even pain.
  • Special focus should be on optimal movement patterning of the shoulder girdle in unison with the arms, forearms, wrists, and hands throughout all planes of movement to ensure there isn’t an overuse of the muscles in the forearm that enable you to rotate your arm, flex your wrist, and grip with your hand.
  • Work on increasing mobility of the spine in all planes of movement while maintaining dynamic control.
  • A healthy diet, and staying hydrated before, during, and after your golf game will also ensure your body stays injury free.

Sources consulted:

Parziale, John R. “Healthy swing: a golf rehabilitation model.” American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation vol. 81,7 (2002): 498-501.

Kiel J, Kaiser K. Golfers Elbow. [Updated 2020 Jun 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021.

Lateral and Medial Epicondylitis of the Elbow. Jobe, Frank W. MD; Ciccotti, Michael G. MD

Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: January 1994 - Volume 2 - Issue 1 - p 1-8

Hoogvliet P, Randsdorp MS, Dingemanse R, Koes BW, Huisstede BM. Does effectiveness of exercise therapy and mobilisation techniques offer guidance for the treatment of lateral and medial epicondylitis? A systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2013 Nov 1;47(17):1112-9.

Schleip, R. (2003). Fascial plasticity — a new neurobiological explanation: part 1. Journal Of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 7(1), 11-19

Clinical Sports Medicine, 4th Edition, Brukner & Khan.

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