By Hershel Sarbin and Jim Brown
So many choices, so little space to write about them. Injuries are more common than birdies for many senior golfers. But knowing what they are, how to treat them, and most importantly, how to prevent them, can keep you up and running -- well, maybe not running -- instead of sitting in your doctor's waiting room.
Let's start with wrist tendinitis. It is an inflammation of tendons that pass from the forearm over the wrists to the hands and fingers. It is one of the most common sports injuries, affecting a variety of athletes, especially golfers. Any activity that involves flexing and straightening the wrist through a wide range of motion can cause tendinitis. The symptoms develop gradually and include pain with repetitive use, tenderness, swelling, a crackling sensation, and difficulty in gripping objects. You may be able to diagnose and treat the injury by yourself, but if the symptoms get worse or last as long as two weeks, get medical attention. If you don't, tendinitis can become chronic and may even require surgery.
The first thing you should do is stop playing golf, if that is the activity causing the pain. Better to lay off a few days than to try to play through the pain and be out for months. Apply ice to the affected area for 20-30 minutes every three to four hours for the first two or three days. When possible, elevate the arm and hand. Use NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, ketoprofen) to control the pain and inflammation.
A physician may prescribe stronger drugs and/or immobilize the wrist in a neutral position. In rare cases, surgery is performed to allow the tendon more room to move within its sheath. Recovery time varies with each person and should be determined by the strength and range of motion range in the wrist rather than by a certain number of days. Golfers who suffer from minor tendinitis usually recover within 7-10 days. If surgery is necessary, you may need six to 12 weeks before resuming activity.
As soon as the pain subsides, begin a program to strengthen the wrist and increase its range of motion. Four exercises are described below. Start with a weight you can lift 8-12 times without hurting yourself and work up to 15-30 repetitions for each exercise, twice a day. They are recommended by Boston's Lyle Micheli, M.D., author of The Sports Medicine Bible.
• Put your forearm on a table, palm down, and allow your wrist to hang over the edge. Keep your fingers relaxed and bend your hand downward as far as possible, then up.
• Put your forearm on a table, palm facing in, wrist hanging off the edge. Keep your fingers straight as you turn rotate hand down (bending the wrist) as far as possible, then back to the starting position.
• Put your forearm on a table, palm against the table. Rotate your forearm and wrist so that the back of your hand touches the table.
• Rotate your wrist in a circle, then change directions and rotate again.
©2004 Hershel Sarbin Associates
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