I once believed, as many still do, that the game of golf represents a haven for those of us who don’t want to wrestle, get dragged down by a linebacker or risk being gored by a bull. It has always been sold as a walk through beautiful countryside in which the golfer dictates the pace, within reason, and by virtue of one’s shot-making, makes a fairly easy day of it, free from the rampant injuries of more brutal sports.
Since then, I’ve read about courses where a golfer confronts lions, alligators and army ants in the rough, rogue weather events, lightning strikes and landslides. Then followed the realization that there’s a lot of absenteeism on the various tours due to all sorts of injuries and other dangers. We must face the fact that although we live in a culture that celebrates toughness, none of us really are. Some of us may scream and cry less in a crisis, but as we’ve been warned by science for eons, we’re just bags of water and sticks undergoing neural and chemical reactions, with the occasional bright idea popping out here and there. We are all prone to injuries in our sporting lives, and that means all of us.
For some of us, it’s worse than for others. After all, consider the accident-prone pro like Thomas Levet, who has bowed out of a good chunk of the season by slipping on a staircase leading up to a tee. A staircase to a tee? That’s pitiful. It’s Mr. Levet’s second oops. It seems that he jumped into a water hazard after winning the French Open, knocking him out of the British. Considering the way those two countries feel about each other, there must be something nefarious afoot.
American J.B. Holmes was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation, a problem with that section of the brain controlling balance – lethal to a golf game. Experiencing vertigo-like symptoms on the course, Holmes was fitted with a titanium plate in the brain, but reacted adversely to the adhesive. Our highest thoughts go out to him on this one. He takes it in stride, though, keeping a piece of his skull on the window sill. Isn’t nostalgia something else?
Other than these blessedly uncommon conditions, however, there are dozens of ailments specifically related to golf that stalk each and every one of us on the course. Dr. Larry Foster, author of “Dr. Divot’s Guide to Golf Injuries,” has me giving this Saturday’s round second thoughts. There’s back pain from the swing or hunched putting stance, or “golfer’s elbow,” inflammation in the upper arm. All manner of rotator cuff issues can be exacerbated, and carpel tunnel syndrome enters as the number one enemy for people in repetitive action careers. DeQuevain’s Tendinitis inflicts the wrist at the base of the thumb, and a torn meniscus or various other kneecap conditions can render a round of golf utterly tortuous.
We finally reach the green, only to develop “trigger finger,” in which the fingers become locked, or wrist impaction syndrome, a result of repeated wrist collisions. How about a scholarly-sounding one like ECU tendon Sublaxation? The wrist tendon sheaths slide in and out, and the name sounds great at parties. Don’t even pursue the topic of fractured hamate bones – you don’t want to know.
Fortunately, we have a place to go. There’s a lot of help online, from various individual physicians and golfers to the Mayo Clinic itself. Just a few avenues of relief include the squeezing of tennis balls and wrist curls (and reverse curls) for golf elbow. Swing adjustments are recommended, but no one’s going to touch my Ben Hogan knockoff developed through years of self-deception. Yoga is good, and sunscreen is a must at certain latitudes. Put your particular affliction in the search bar, and you’ll find the help you need.
Speaking of self-deception, here’s some irrefutable logic. If you’re fifty or sixty, you’re not twenty. You may be in wonderful shape, and I hope you are, but you’re not twenty. The days of rolling out of bed and producing a big healthy, loose swing are over. Go ahead, stretch. I won’t tell if you won’t – and no jumping into water hazards, no matter what you’ve just won.