We are emerging from what seems like an unusually intense winter. In addition, COVID-19 presented 2020 with unprecedented challenges on many levels including limited opportunities for fitness and social interaction. There has been a plethora of Peloton-type devices released, which allowed for pseudo-social interaction while maintaining fitness during the cold winter months. These devices are excellent for general aerobic fitness, but lack sports specific preparedness. Now that the crocuses have announced the arrival of spring, it is time to normalize outdoor fitness and recreational activities.
It is now nearly two years since many of us have played golf or tennis. The details of being immunized, and the effects of having recovered from the illness, are being worked out. Some of us have doubts and concerns about matching pre-injury levels. Some genuine concerns are how to avoid injuries which are sport specific and occur in a fairly predictable manner.
With golf, the two main functions are supporting upper body to allow for the swing and the swing portion of the activity. The plant and twist maneuvers can be particularly challenging for middle-aged knees and the postural muscle groups. Walking on uneven ground and inclines places additional stress on the knees. When driving the ball, the off-axis stresses on the shoulders must be offset by the stress and exertion of the postural spinal muscles. These muscle groups are intolerant high peak stresses or wrenching injuries. A chunk may not only wrench the swing arm but can transfer stresses to the postural spine resulting in injuries (this may happen more often after a two-year golf hiatus).
In preparing for the opening game, you need to be aware that the Peloton has served an important function in maintaining ideal body weight and aerobic capacity. The lower extremity portion of the fitness and warm up includes stretching of the quads and hamstrings as well as leg presses for stabilization. Spinal fitness can be achieved through sit-ups, crunches, and back extension exercises. Weightlifting using clean and jerk maneuvers can be done cautiously, avoiding extreme or peak loads. Upper extremity exercises can include crossed body stretching, shoulder shrugs, flys and curls. As with any sport, proper preparation can help avoid soft tissue injuries. Once an injury develops, playing through it is not recommended, and proper rest and ice is important. If the symptoms do not go away within a few days of self-care, an orthopedic consultation may be appropriate.
PHOTO CAP: Dr. Menachem M. Meller, M.D., Ph.D., FAAOS