Preventing Labrum Tears for Golfers: 7 Tips to Avoid This Serious Shoulder Injury

Golf is considered a leisure sport, but the truth is, there are many ways that golfers can get injured on the course. Preventing labrum tears, golfer’s elbow, and other common golf issues is critical to your game and health.

So what are some of these common golf injuries? We’ve discussed golfer’s elbow, one common golf hazard. Another serious golf injury is a labrum tear.

Labrum tears from golf result in shoulder pain and discomfort during your game and off the course. Labrum tears are serious and cause sharp pain and clicking in the shoulder. Unfortunately, these injuries don’t heal on their own and require professional attention.

If you suspect any golf injury, it’s time to reach out to the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin. Our specialists can assess your golf-related shoulder pain and help you get back on par. Golf should never be painful, so if you’re experiencing soreness while playing, don’t wait, seek the advice of a professional. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about preventing labrum tears from golf.

What Are Labrum Tears?

A labrum tear is also known as a SLAP tear: a tear of the Superior Labrum Anterior Posterior. You can think of the shoulder as a golf ball on a tee. The ball of your shoulder—the humerus head—sits in the shoulder socket, known as the glenoid, surrounded by a cushioning ring of cartilage tissue known as the labrum.

The labrum is in both the hip and shoulder joints; both can be injured during any sport, like golf. A SLAP tear—or tear of the labrum in the shoulder—can occur for many reasons, including aging, repetitive movements, or acute trauma. There are different types of SLAP tears; levels I-IV, depending on the tear’s severity, type, and shape. Most labrum tears occur along with other shoulder issues, like rotator cuff injuries. SLAP tears are common in athletes but can occur in anyone.

How do you know if you have a SLAP tear? It can only be diagnosed by a professional, but there are certain symptoms to watch out for. Grinding, catching, or locking sensations are common signs of labrum tears. You may also experience pain when lifting, a decrease in range of motion, and an inability to swing or pitch. You should get SLAP tears treated right away. The injury can worsen if ignored.

Because sports like golf and baseball often put extra strain and stress on the shoulder, it’s essential to take steps to prevent labrum tears so you can continue to play.

7 Tips for Preventing Labrum Tears

Labrum tears occur due to overuse of the arm or shoulder, as well as traumatic injury. While you can’t prevent traumatic injury from falls or accidents, you can take precautions to keep your shoulder healthy and your swing in check. The added bonus is that many of these tips may also improve your golf game!

1. Use Proper Form

If you’re self-taught, it’s worth seeking the advice of a professional golf instructor to learn how you can improve your stance and swing. 64% of golfers report watching some instruction online, but only 14-17% of golfers report taking formal instruction in the last year.

While YouTube can provide basic golf information, you’ll get better advice from a professional who can see your stance. If it’s been a while since you took a golf lesson (or if you’ve never taken one before), it’s a worthy investment that will not only improve your game but will help you prevent injury during play.

2. Build Your Core Strength

Golf seems like a game that doesn’t require great physical strength, but the truth is, golf engages most of your major muscle groups. One of the most important areas to your golf game is your core, and yet it’s an area that many golfers ignore or overlook.

When you swing, you should be engaging your core muscles, which takes the pressure off your shoulders and arms. Your upper body rotates, and your abdominal muscles keep your swing strong and consistent. Core strength will keep your body healthier overall and is critical in preventing labrum tears and other upper-body injuries.

3. Use the Right Equipment

You wouldn’t use your driver to putt or your sand wedge from 200 yards. No matter what you’re doing on the golf course, you should use the right equipment. Because many labrum tears occur due to traumatic injury, it’s important to wear sturdy footwear so you don’t slip or fall. Although most courses don’t require special golf shoes, there are tripping hazards on the course. When you shift weight during your swing, golf shoes can help you stay balanced with proper traction.

Practice with all the clubs you plan to use during your game. Start with your 9-iron and higher irons, working your way down to your drivers or woods. Get a feel for each club, so you can keep the correct grip and don’t need to exert too much force during the game.

4. Don’t Overdo It

Baseball and softball players follow strict pitch limits for preventing SLAP tears and other rotator cuff injuries. Labrum tears often occur due to repetitive motion, which includes pitching and, in golf, swinging. If you are practicing at the range, keep yourself in check and don’t overdo it.

At a practice range, you might go through 50-100 balls, offering a lot of opportunity for shoulder stress and strain. If you start to notice golf shoulder pain, it’s time to take a break and let your body rest and recover. The same goes for time on the green—if you play 18 holes, you may need to rest for a day or two, especially if multiple days of golf aren’t part of your routine.

5. Play it Safe to Prevent Labrum Tears

Safety on the golf course is important. Avoid playing in inclement weather to prevent slipping. Report any hazards or issues on the course to the golf pro, and be sure that you watch your step throughout your game on the green. If you carry your golf bag, keep in mind that it weighs about 30 pounds, and the average golf course is about four miles. Alternate sides and carry the bag properly, just as you would with any heavy backpack.

If you choose to play with a golf cart, be sure that you follow all the course rules and keep speeds under control. Bone breaks and labrum tears can happen from traumatic injury, and driving a golf cart, especially after a drink or two on the course, can be dangerous.

6. Stretch and Hydrate Before Play

As with any sport, hydration is essential for focus, performance, and injury prevention. Carry water with you on the green, and remember to drink up regularly. Golf may feel leisurely, but in the warm sun, you can quickly become drained and tired. When players become fatigued, they’re more likely to get injured.

Stretching and warming up before play is also important. While stretching may or may not be part of preventing labrum tears and other sports injuries, it does give you a chance to connect with your body. When you do light stretches, you’ll notice anything that seems amiss. If you experience discomfort during your warmup, it may be a sign to sit out the round.

7. Listen to Your Body (And Your Doctor)

The most important part of preventing labrum tears and other golf injuries is to listen to your body. You know what feels “normal” and when something hurts. If you’re experiencing golf shoulder pain, clicking, or weakness in your arm, it could be the early signs of a SLAP tear.

Labrum tears shouldn’t be ignored or brushed aside. A SLAP tear won’t heal on its own, so you need to seek the advice of a professional. Fortunately, the specialists at the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin are here to help you feel better quickly.

If you notice any shoulder pain or discomfort that’s taking the spring out of your swing, reach out today. Our team can advise you on your best course of action to ensure you don’t miss out on golf season!