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Rotator Cuff Injury in Golf

Professional athletes have long been plagued by rotator cuff injuries. Baseball player John Smoltz, swimmer Janet Evans and tennis great Monica Seles have all suffered from the upper body injury.

After his win at the 1996 Memorial Tournament, Tom Watson bowed out of the British Open competition with rotator cuff tendonitis.

But professionals aren't the only ones susceptible to the painful rotator cuff injury. Amateur golfers sometimes suffer from the injury which is often characterized by a deep aching pain in the upper arm. This pain may lead the sufferer to believe the injury is in the arm, when in reality it is in the shoulder. The pain of rotator cuff tendonitis results from repetitive motion in the mechanism of the shoulder. The stress of forceful, repetitive motion, such as a golf swing, can erode the muscles in the rotator cuff, resulting in varying degrees of soreness and reduced movement.

To fully understand the condition of rotator cuff tendonitis, it is important to understand some basics about the shoulder's anatomy. The rotator cuff is comprised of four small muscles which originate in the shoulder blade and insert on the top of the humerus (upper bone) in the shoulder. By design, the shoulder joint is a very mobile joint, but not a very stable joint. The rotator cuff is designed to provide dynamic stability to the shoulder joint during basic movements. For example, during the follow-through on a golf swing, when muscles in the arm are activated, the rotator cuff is triggered too, working to keep the muscles and bones in proper alignment for the swing.

But when someone is suffering from rotator cuff tendonitis, the end of the shoulder blade and the upper bone of the arm impinge the cuff, causing a sharp pain. If untreated, the injury can lead to continued inflammation and/or tearing of the rotator cuff.

Prevention and Treatment for Rotator Cuff Injuries

To prevent rotator cuff injuries, golfers can perform several exercises to stretch muscles surrounding the rotator cuff. First, to effectively stretch the back of the shoulder, the golfer must pull their arm across their body with the elbow extended. The unextended arm should be used to pull the other arm toward the body, to the point of gentle tension. Second, to effectively stretch the front of the shoulder, golfers should hold a club with hands hip width apart and raise the club overhead as far as possible to stretch. These and other preventive exercises can prevent rotator cuff injuries from becoming a reality for an enthusiastic golfer. By shortening a golf swing and slowing the tempo, a golfer can maintain better body mechanics and prevent injuries from occurring.

Fortunately for both amateur and professional athletes, non-surgical and surgical treatment is available for rotator cuff injuries. An athlete who suspects a rotator cuff injury should visit his or her family physician for a complete evaluation. The doctor will test each muscle affecting the shoulder and may prescribe a physical therapy regimen to stretch tight muscles and strengthen weak ones.

In the case of "impingement" or "pinching" of the tendons, anti-inflammatory drugs may be taken orally to reduce the swelling. Besides modifying one's swing and taking a break from the links, some golfers suffering from severe rotator cuff injuries must undergo surgery. Today, arthroscopic surgery is commonly done to correct impingement. During this procedure, more space is made for the tendon to move through the shoulder. In the event of complete tears in the rotator cuff, open surgery can be performed.

Following surgery, patients will likely participate in a physical therapy regimen that may call for electrical stimulation, ice packs, heat packs or ultrasound treatments and exercise.

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Therapy Services Associates
Hours: Monday - Friday :: 8am - 5pm
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Two Offices
Google+ Link Hobbs
2700 N Grimes
Hobbs, NM 88240
(575) 392-4129
FAX (575) 392-3835

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Located inside Nor Lea Hospital
1600 N Main
Lovington, NM 88260
(575) 396-5227
FAX (575) 396-7193


We serve Lea and Eddy Counties in New Mexico, as well as Yoakum and Gaines Counties in West Texas.