Torn Rotator Cuff Muscle : Golf Injuries

Shoulder injuries are not as common in golf as they are in sports such as tennis that require frequent overhead action. However they can still occur through repetitive strain or by not using the correct technique during the golf swing.

What are the Rotator Cuff Muscles?

There are four rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder: the teres minor, supraspinatus, subscapularis and infraspinatus. These muscles join the upper arm bone (humerus) to the shoulder blade (scapula) and help to keep the shoulder joint stable. They also allow the arm to move up and down and rotate. The rotator cuff muscles are very active during the golf swing.

What Causes a Torn Rotator Cuff Muscle?

The rotator cuffs can become damaged through a sudden traumatic impact, but in golf it is much more likely to occur through repetitive strain. The muscles in the arm that you use to lead your golf swing can become weakened over time if they are overused or used improperly. The muscle fibres can become stretched or torn completely. In professional golfers, the injury is more likely to occur through over-training, whereas in less experienced players shoulder damage often occurs through improper technique, especially if the muscles are not conditioned for golf. This injury is more common in older players because the tendons in the shoulder become weakened as you get older.

What are the Symptoms of a Torn Rotator Cuff Muscle?

The shoulder will feel painful and weak, especially when lifting your arm over your head or across your body. The shoulder’s degree of movement will decrease, it will probably become swollen and you may suffer from muscle spasms. The damaged shoulder will feel particularly stiff and sore first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

How Can Shoulder Damage be Prevented?

Doing exercises that condition the shoulder muscles for golf and ensuring you use the correct technique during the golf swing are the best ways of minimizing the risk of injury. If you are a novice, it is a good idea to have golf lessons to ensure you are handling the golf club correctly. It is also important to warm up before each session to increase the muscles’ flexibility and range of motion. As rotator cuff damage usually occurs through repetitive strain in golf, it is vital that you don’t over-practice and get plenty of rest between sessions. This will allow your shoulder muscles to recover and regain their full strength, decreasing the likelihood of developing an injury.

How is a Torn Rotator Cuff Muscle Treated?

Resting the shoulder (possibly with the aid of a sling that is removed at night), applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medication will reduce pain and swelling in the initial stages. When the pain has subsided, exercises that strengthen the shoulder muscles will help it to heal and reduce the chances of the injury recurring. If the muscle tear is very serious, keyhole surgery (arthroscopy) will probably be necessary to repair the damaged muscle fibres.

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