Common Golf Injuries of the Hand and Wrist and How to Avoid Them

The golf swing is a complex, coordinated series of motions that can result in hand, wrist, and elbow injuries in golfers of all skill levels. Injuries can result from poor technique, overuse, or from a single direct blow, like hitting a tree root.

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand suggests these ways to reduce the chances of an injury while golfing:

  • Make sure you stretch hamstrings, calves, obliques, back, shoulders, and wrists before you begin golfing.
  • Gradually increase length of play and intensity of swings as the season progresses. 
  • Make sure you have good aerobic conditioning and core muscle strength to improve swing mechanics.
  • It may help to get instruction with a teaching professional to refine technique. This is especially important if you are new to golf or haven’t played in a while.

Golf injuries can include tendonitis, sprains, or fractures (broken bones).

Sprained Wrist
A sprain is an injury to a ligament that connects one bone to another. Symptoms of a sprained wrist most often involve pain and popping in the wrist. Mild sprains may be treated with ice, anti-inflammatories, rest, and splints. More severe or longer lasting pain should be evaluated by a hand surgeon, who may suggest imaging of the wrist to look for a fracture or abnormal separation of the bones. An X-ray or MRI may be needed. Some sprains are severe enough that they require surgery.

Tendonitis of the wrist often occurs in the leading hand (left hand for a right handed player). When tendonitis occurs in the elbow, it can be referred to as medial epicondylitis or “golfer’s elbow.” Pain is often felt on the inner, or medial, part of the elbow where the muscles that bend the wrist and fingers attach. Lateral epicondylitis, also known as “tennis elbow,” is another form of tendonitis in which the pain is mostly on the outer part of the elbow. It is more common among golfer’s than golfer’s elbow, despite the name.

Initial treatment for tendonitis consists of rest, ice, stretching, splinting, and anti-inflammatory medications. For tennis elbow, try to lift objects palm up. For golfer’s elbow, try to lift objects with the palm down. A physical or occupational therapist specializing in the treatment of the hands can recommend exercises that stretch and strengthen muscles and tendons. Changing your grip may also help. Sometimes steroid injections (also known as a cortisone shot) may be recommended. Most epicondylitis will resolve after many months, while a small number of cases may require surgery to relieve the pain.

Breaks are uncommon in golfers, but when they do occur can be painful and require extensive care, including surgery.

The most easily injured is the hamate bone, which can occur when the club strikes the ground and the handle presses against the hook-shaped part of the bone on the pinky side of your glove hand at the wrist. When the club is held too high on the shaft, so that none of the shaft extends out of the top of the hands, the top of the shaft drives into the hand and may break it. A hamate bone fracture typically doesn’t heal on its own, and may eventually cause a flexor tendon rupture if not resolved. Such an injury often requires surgery to repair delicate hand bones, resolve the pain, and protect against tendon rupture.

Damaged Blood Vessels
Blood vessel damage can result from the club handle repeatedly striking the palm. Hypothenar Hammer Syndrome is an injury to the ulnar artery, one of the main arteries to the hand, where repeated blows weaken the vessel wall. There is often pain in the palm, sometimes disrupted blood flow going to the fingertips, and in some cases pain, numbness and color changes in the fingertips. This condition may require surgery to resolve.

The Experts at MSA Can Help
The hands are one of the most intricate parts of the body and require treatment by specialized healthcare providers. Our team of outstanding specialists provide hand surgery and therapy services that can help you prevent, evaluate, and treat golf-related injuries to your hands. Contact us for an appointment today.

American Society for Surgery of the Hand
USA Today