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Fitness Friday: Protect your shoulder joints

January 12, 2012

*Every week Ron Kaspriske, Golf Digest Fitness Editor, presents Fitness Friday on the Instruction Blog. Here's his advice for avoiding injury to your rotator cuff. Look for Weekend Tip tomorrow, and remember to follow me on Twitter: @RogerSchiffman.

Roger Schiffman

Managing Editor

Golf Digest*

Here's Ron: Dave Stockton recently dropped by Golf Digest's offices to talk to the editors about his short-game philosphy. He explained that putting and chipping are the only two facets of the game where right-handed players should let the left hand control the stroke. He was speaking purely about swing mechanics, but the advice Stockton gave is also great from a biomechanics standpoint.

Right-handed golfers who rely on their left arm to pull the club through impact are a lot more susceptible to rotator-cuff tears. Just ask Al Geiberger who used to be a left-arm puller and eventually had to have surgery to repair that shoulder's rotator cuff. Dr. Lewis Yocum is the man who performed that surgery back in 1994, and he recently told me that while most people think pitchers are the only ones who injure the four muscles of the rotator cuff, golfers also are at a high risk. "Those injuries are right up there, very common," says Yocum, orthopedic surgeon and former medical consultant for the PGA Tour. "It's not so much tears that are common but inflammations and irritations are. Unfortunately, most golfers don't do much all week to strengthen and stretch the rotator-cuff muscles. So they aren't up to snuff when it comes time to play."

Let this serve as some words of caution, especially if you're a golfer who makes a very "armsy" swing with very little body rotation or spends a lot of time on the range, Yocum says. Poor mechanics and/or overuse of the joint are the fastest ways to end up with a rotator-cuff injury. And if you're a senior, it could take up to a year to heal a tear. "Just ask Al Geiberger," Yocum says.

See my column in the February issue of Golf Digest for four new exercises PGA Tour trainer Dave Herman uses with players such as Gary Woodland, Sandra Gal and Trevor Immelman. The exercises are unrelated to strengthening the rotator cuff, but are great for overall golf fitness.

-- Ron Kaspriske, Fitness Editor