Injuries to the lower back, shoulder, elbow, wrist and knee plague many recreational golfers. Research being presented today at the 58th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine and 2nd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine® suggests that golfers recovering from or prone to injury should limit their play and practice on natural grass.

Andrea Fradkin, Ph.D., an associate professor of exercise science at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, analyzed and compared the acceleration rates experienced by four areas of the body during the golf swing on the three most common golf surfaces - natural grass, sand and artificial turf - to determine if playing surface was a factor.

"Although golf is not considered a strenuous sport, approximately 35 percent of recreational golfers sustain an injury each year," said Fradkin. "The results of this study show that natural grass consistently produces the greatest total accelerations, and certain parts of the body may be subjected to greater forces on natural grass, increasing the potential for injury or re-injury."

Fifteen golfers with a registered handicap completed a standardized warm-up prior to performing three swings on each surface using a 5-iron club in a randomly assigned order. Four wireless accelerometers were secured around each participant's right and left forearm and calf.

The results showed that the highest accelerations were achieved on natural grass in all four areas - the lead and trail arm, and lead and trail leg. Accelerations in both the lead arm and leg were significantly higher on natural grass compared to artificial turf and sand. Compared to swinging on sand, participants swinging on natural grass had a significantly higher acceleration in the trail leg as well. Resultant accelerations were significantly smaller in the legs compared to the arms across all conditions.

The acceleration variations between the arms and legs are likely due to the roles of these limbs throughout the golf swing. Accelerations were significantly greater on the lead side compared to the trail side, which is expected, as the lead side is more involved throughout the golf swing; however, this is a concern, as the lead side sustains significantly more injuries. For golfers prone to injury or recovering from injury, playing surface should be considered.

American College of Sports Medicine

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