FROM OUR GUEST EDITORS
It should be easy, no? The little white ball is sitting there, completely still, on the soft green grass. Yet, it has turned out for many of us, that it is not. Hitting the ball and making it go exactly where you want it to, that is. Every one of the >66 million golfers world-wide has experienced the frustration of hitting the opening drive out of bounds—or of missing an easy putt. But—also—they have smelled the sweet elation of making a difficult one. Even mediocre golfers can experience the pure exhilaration of making a birdie or even a hole in one!
So, whether playing for fun or playing for money, golf has its ups and downs. But the good news is that, regardless, the game carries many benefits. I asked my golf partners this afternoon why they play and the top of their long list includes the banter and camaraderie, the exercise, fresh air, enjoying nature (even the bits where we’re no longer on the short green grass) and, being distracted from other worries by the little white ball.
Still, perhaps most important are the unequivocal health benefits. Golf adds not only life to years, but also years to life. In the first section, Watson et al document how golf benefits not only physical health—cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory and musculoskeletal—but also promotes mental wellness, self-esteem and can improve quality of life and social connections. Add to that the fact that—unlike many other sports—golf can be played at all ages. In their paper, Bennett & Hawkes also describe how golf is an ideal sport for people with a wide range of disabilities—and the initiatives taken to eliminate discrimination.
Injuries do—unfortunately—represent an unwanted side effect of sports participation. Again, there is good news. As outlined by Robinson et al, recent studies show that the risk of golf injuries per hour played is very low, but that the main problem for the recreational golfer is that injuries, aches and pains not caused by golf, like acquired osteoarthritis, affect them when playing golf. In the elite golfer, injury rates are also low per hour played but prevalent due to the high number of practice and competition hours. These most commonly affect the cervical, lumbar spine and the hand/wrist. This issue therefore also includes papers with specific advice on the management of injuries to two specific regions, the spine and the wrist, as well as advice on how appropriate imaging can assist the practitioner.
Of course, golfers do not just want to stay healthy; they also want to play well. In this issue, we therefore cover some essentials for performance. One is the physical preparation; as pointed out in the interview with Suzann Pettersen, modern golf requires intensive fitness training and Coughlan et al provide extensive advice on how in their paper. The modern golfer also pays close attention to appropriate nutrition and hydration, as outlined by O’Donnell et al. Also, frequent international travel is a significant challenge facing the elite player competing in 20-30 events each year, often switching between continents. Dunne et al provide a host of practical advice in their paper.
We thank the eminent and expert author group, and are honoured and genuinely thankful to the Editor-in-Chief, Prof Popovic, and his team to be given an opportunity to produce this targeted edition on golf. We are sure that this issue will be of interest to not only any clinician interested in sport—but also to the golfer, coach and those otherwise involved in helping with health and performance.
Roald Bahr MD, PhD
Andrew Murray MD, PhD