2009-07-15 / Seniors

Healthy Tips For Aging Golfers

Dear Savvy Senior,

I used to think golf was a leisurely game, but at age 68, my back and wrist sure don't think so. Do you have any tips or know of any equipment that can help seniors?

Aching Golfer

Dear Aching:

Most golfers don't think much about it, but the game- played by about 25 million Americans- can take a surprising toll on the body. And for older golfers, especially, who aren't as strong or flexible as they once were, it can lead to multiple aches and pains as well as injuries. Here's what you should know.

A Rough Game

According to the National Safety Council, last year golfers suffered around 35,000 injuries that required a trip to the emergency room or doctor. This is due to the simple fact that golf is a physical game that requires lots of twisting and turning, gripping and swinging, and bending and stooping, which places a lot of stress and strain on lower backs, hips, knees, shoulders, hands, wrists and elbows. And while walking a nine- or 18-hole round of golf over hilly terrain is great exercise, it, too, can take a physical toll on the body.

On top of that, many golfers drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages before and during play, and aren't aware that prescription medications, especially some heart medications, interfere with the body's ability to cool itself, all of which increases the risk of heat sickness.

What To Do

You can head off some of the physical stresses that come with golf by improving your golf fitness and by warming up before you play. Older golfers especially need to take time stretch their muscles, focusing on their legs, shoulders and back (see www.Mayoclinic.com/health/golf-stretches/ SM00089 for a slide show of golf stretches).

And for instruction on how to improve your golf fitness and reduce injury, there's a variety of resources you can turn to such as the Titleist Performance Institute (www.mytpi.com), where you'll find tips on golf exercises, stretching and injury prevention. The institute also offers a searchable database to find a fitness pro, lets you solicit expert advice online and more. The Golf Fitness Magazine Web site (www.golffitness-magazine.com) is another good resource that offers a golf fitness survey, blog, online exercise videos and a wide variety of helpful fitness articles. There are also dozens of books that provide tips on golf fitness such as Dr. Divot's Guide to Golf Injuries and Golf Rx which you can find online at Amazon.com.

In addition to improving your fitness, there's also a variety of golfing gadgets and equipment that can help too. Here are some different items that can help, depending on your problem:

Stiff, achy back: Because golf is a game that requires a lot of repetitive bending and stooping, back problems are a common problem for older golfers. To address this issue, the Uprightgolf Company (www.uprightgolf.com; 319- 268-0939) offers a variety of affordable products that eliminate the bending and stooping that come with teeing the ball up, repairing divots, marking the ball while on the green, retrieving the ball, picking a club up off the ground and more.

Hand and wrist pain: Gripping a golf club can be challenging for golfers who have carpal tunnel syndrome, hand or wrist arthritis or limited hand strength. To help, there are specially designed golf gloves (see www.bionicgloves.com, www.powerglove.com and www.suregripsportsglove.com) that you can purchase to enhance your grip. Or you can get larger, softer grips installed on your golf clubs for around $5 to $10 per club, which makes them easier and more comfortable to hold. Your golf shop manager should be able to help you with this.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to "The NBC Today Show" and author of The Savvy Senior books.

The Gazette does not endorse the contents of The Savvy Senior. Check with professionals about the contents of this column.

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