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Indiana Podiatry Group
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Top Foot and Ankle Injuries From Golf on Indiana Greens

Golf is a popular sport, and despite the relatively small amount of effort required to play it compared with other more aerobic sports, golfers can still injure their bodies. Although the more disabling injuries are located in the back, hips, and knees, the feet can be injured as well. Given the strain that a golf swing can potentially place on the feet, there are certain injuries that are a direct result of one's swing mechanics.

The golf swing consists of several steps. The first is the ball address, in which the golfer stands with equal weight on both feet lining up for the swing, with some weight perhaps slightly more to the insides of the feet. This step is followed by the backswing, in which the front foot rotates outward (pronates), and the back foot stays stable. At the end of this step, the front heel may even rise off the ground to promote a full shoulder turn. Following the backswing is the downswing, in which one's weight rapidly shifts to the front foot. The ball is then hit in the impact step, where the weight is even distributed between the feet. Finally, the follow through sees the front foot rotate inward (supinate), and the back heel comes off the ground with increased weight on the big toe.

The most common foot injury in golf is the development of a neuroma. This condition is essentially swelling and scarring around one of the nerves that run in the in-between spaces in the ball of the foot just before the toes separate. It can produce sharp, stabbing, burning, or tingling pain in the ball of the foot and the two toes the nerve supplies sensation to, and can also result in numbness in two toes. The golf swing can cause this injury by pinching the nerve in the front foot during follow through, in which the foot rotates inward. The condition can cause pain on walking, but can specifically be felt on drives and longer shots, and less on putts and shorter shots. The nerve irritation eventually needs medical treatment, but can be reduced on the course by adjusting one's foot position before the swing, as a rotation of the feet 45 degrees outward can reduce the amount of inward rotation during follow through.

The same motion that causes a pinched nerve can also irritate the outside of the ankle during follow through, and lead to an ankle strain. The ankle has several ligaments and two tendons that pass on the outside and under the ankle bone, and one or several of these can become strained as the foot rotates inward, leading to pain on the outside of the ankle during the follow through step, as well as while walking the course. Treatment consists of rotating the foot outward to reduce inward rotation, although an ankle brace may be needed in more painful cases.

Another injury that can occur in the foot during the golf swing is a bruise to the big toenail of the back foot. this bruise is similar to what runners develop, and it can sometimes be painful or cause the nail to loosen. This injury occurs when the toe has increased pressure placed on it during the end part of the follow through, which can cause bleeding to form under the nail. It can be prevented by slightly rotating the back foot away from the ball before the swing, which will result in increased pressure to the inside of the ball of the foot during the follow through, and not the big toe.

Finally, one can potentially develop tendonitis while playing golf. There are numerous tendons that can be injured slightly when one walks on uneven ground for a long time, including the Achilles tendon and tendons on the inner and outer side of the foot. These injuries are not unique to golf , and can occur with any activity that requires walking long distances or running. However, one tendon injury is somewhat unique in golf, or at least the cause is. There are a group of tendons on the front of the foot and ankle called extensor tendons, and they original from a couple muscles on the front of the leg. Their purpose is to bend the foot upward at the ankle. These tendons can become injured during golfing in the right foot primarily when one is using a golf cart, especially on a hilly course. the constant use of the heavy parking brake will strain the tendons over time, and lead to tendon inflammation. By alternating braking with the left and right foot, this can be avoided.