Stats show golf can be a dangerous game

Published Thu, Jul 15, 2021 · 05:50 AM


TWO weeks ago, a local golfer suffered a bad shoulder injury and was rushed to hospital by ambulance when he drove his buggy down the ravine on the par-three 9th hole of the Singapore Island Country Club's Old course.

About two years ago, another golfer drove his buggy into the pond on the par-five 18th hole of Sentosa's Serapong course, and unaware to his flightmates, was left unattended until next morning when the club's officials found that he died from drowning.

There was another incident some years ago when a co-driver of a buggy stretched his right leg out during the drive on a cart path, which saw his leg hit a concrete kerb resulting in a badly-damaged foot.

Such frightening incidents play contrary to the belief that golf is a safe sport with a low risk of injury.

But the handling of golf buggies, which apparently can reach speeds of up to 30km an hour, is an act which many golfers sometimes pay little heed to because they get caught up in the competition and treat the open space as a private domain.

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Poor buggy handling aside, injuries in golf are commonplace and the severity of injury is often under-estimated.

GolfSupport, a British online golf shop, had analysed a report by the National Health Statistics and revealed that the risk of injury in golf annually is as many as 40.9 per cent of amateur golfers who play regularly.

A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine also revealed that the incidence of injury is even higher in professional golfers, up to 90 per cent annually and 88.5 per cent in a lifetime.

So the journal concluded that the risk of injury in golf is higher than in rugby, the "violent" contact sport that pits tough, muscular bodies against each other where low tackles can maim players.

Their findings say that 1.8 persons per 1,000 people suffer golf injuries compared to 1.5 for rugby, hockey and other team sports.

It also surmised that golf carts are responsible for as many as 15,000 injuries per year (mainly from falls, collisions and limb entrapment) and that lightning strikes accounted for the deaths of nine golfers in the United States from 2006 to 2016.

Each year, an estimated 40,000 golfers seek emergency treatment due to injuries caused by errant golf clubs and flying clubheads.

GolfSupport said, however, that the benefits of playing golf outweigh the risks associated and virtually all studies investigating the relationship between golf and health conclude that it has a positive effect on both physical and mental health and even helps increase longevity.

But a golfer cannot underestimate the risk of injury and throw caution to the wind because the injuries are a result of poor mechanics or overuse.

A golfer must also be fit enough to play the game, for the golf swing affects both the upper and lower parts of the body.

Understanding the mechanics behind a golf swing can help one prevent injuries. Proper posture, a smooth swing that entails a smooth transfer of force through all muscle groups and not to over-swing (fast and hard swing motion stresses the joints) are simple tips to keep away from injuries.

The five common golf injuries are back pain, rotator cuff injury, tennis elbow and golf elbow, knee pain and damage and tendinitis in the wrist.

The biggest mistake golfers make is not to warm up sufficiently before a game. The experts recommend that at least a 10-minute warm-up to stretch your hands, wrists, forearms, elbows and shoulders and the swinging routine a few times increases your range of motion and swing speed.

Golf is a lifelong sport, but as the legendary Tiger Woods has shown, one's career may end early if your body and limbs "give in" to overuse and undercare.

Woods' catalogue of injuries includes five back surgeries (including spinal fusion), five left-leg operations and screws in his right foot and ankle. He is currently in rehab.

Singapore golf instructor M Murugiah, considered the fittest among the local pros, is currently out of golf for two months after a left knee operation. An overuse of limbs has also stressed his right knee, and his advice to his fellow golfers is simple: "Warm up, stretch, and swing easy".

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