Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)

Golf is a great game and is a good outdoor fitness activity for everyone. However, overuse injuries to the elbow are very common and can put a quick stop to anyone’s game.

The most common problem afflicting golfer’s is “golfer’s elbow” which is a tendonitis of the inside, or medial, part of the elbow. I see this most commonly in player’s who do not warm up properly or play too much their first time out on the links after a long hiatus.

As seen on the right, the tendons on the palm of the hand all attach up at the elbow on the inside or medial part of the elbow. If you are right handed, it most commonly afflicts your right elbow.

This picture along with other useful information about common injuries can be found at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website at www.aaos.org or www.orthoinfo.org with more information concerning all types of orthopaedic injuries.

This tendonitis of the elbow can be very painful and can cause pain to radiate down the forearm to the hand. It can also cause a weakness of your grip and make it difficult to hold your club. It can also be associated with entrapment of the nerve at the elbow, called cubital tunnel syndrome. This causes numbness and tingling in the small and ring finger of the hand and can eventually lead to permanent nerve damage if not treated properly. This can also put quite a damper on your golf swing so it is important not to ignore it and to seek advice from a sports medicine physician. Early treatment is the best way to avoid long term problems.

Here are some simple tips to avoid getting golfer’s elbow:

1) Regularly do stretches of the forearm muscles to promote flexibility of the muscles and tendons of the forearm and hand as seen at left. By keeping the elbow straight, stretch the wrist both directions to work the forearm muscles.

2) Squeeze a tennis ball or some other rubber ball for at least five minutes a day. This can done while driving home from a stressful day at the office or even at work while on the telephone.

3) Do wrist curls using a very light weight and then do reverse curls of the wrist, all with the elbow straight to work the forearm muscles.

4) Always stretch before and after playing. If the elbow is sore after playing, ice the area for at least 15 minutes after playing.

5) A brace worn around the forearm while playing can also help reduce the strain around the elbow and helps give your elbow a break.

If your elbow pain does not go away, it may be time to seek medical attention from a qualified sportsmedicine physician as most of these injuries can be treated without surgery. At Stetson Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, we commonly see and treat these injuries and get our patients and golfer’s back on the course.

For more helpful hints on how to avoid golfing injuries, tune in every Sunday morning on ESPN radio 710 am at 6:00 in the morning for the “Tee It Up Show” golf program.  Dr. Stetson has appeared regularly on this show as has Dr. Lee showing helpful hints on how to treat golfer’s elbow and other injuries common with golfers.

William B. Stetson, MD

Associate Clinical Professor

University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery