If you have never played golf, you may be forgiven for thinking that it is not a physically challenging sport. It was not until the entry of Tiger Woods into the professional ranks that golf Pros started to focus more on their physical abilities.
Those who play can testify to the fact that golf is indeed a physically challenging sport and that the explosive nature of the golf swing exerts a high level of stress on the body.
Most of the top ranked professional golfers endure injuries as a result of what Wallace Kantai calls “repetitive stress injury”. Now whilst Kantai is no orthopaedic surgeon nor is he a golfer, the golf swing is indeed repetitive and the stress generated can lead to injury.
According to the Golf Fitness Magazine, factors that most contribute to common golf swing injuries are - overuse and over-practice, poor swing mechanics, over-swinging, poor warming up technics, rotational stresses on the spice, incorrect grip and setup and traumatic force to the body resulting from poorly executed swings.
These factors lead to - back pain, tendinitis in the elbows, knee pain, issues with the rotator cuff, wrist injuries, hand and finger injuries, neck injuries, foot and ankle injuries and hip injuries (www.golfchannel.com/article/golf-fitness-magazine).
Sunburn is also listed as a common golf injury and whilst those blessed with melanin may wish to dismiss sunblock lotions, the risk of sunburn is real especially at the Kenyan coast.
About eight weeks ago, I started to experience persistent discomfort in my left wrist, no doubt caused by decades of poor and aggressive golf swings. As a result of my injury, I have been forced to wear a wrist brace to allow me to continue enjoying the game.
Wearing the brace brought up a concern, was I within the rules of golf? Could my brace be considered ‘unusual equipment’ under the rules of the game? So I consulted former Karen Country Club Captain Owino Ayodo who recently and successfully went through the Level II Rules School and his response was swift and militant. According to Ayodo, Rule 4.3a (allowed and prohibited use of equipment) describes what is permissible. “Rule 4 focuses on what equipment players may use during a round of golf and it basically says that all players must use conforming clubs and balls,” he said.
“Further Rule 4 states that players are restricted in the use of other equipment that can offer artificial assistance in the course of play.”
Was my wrist brace or indeed another player’s knee brace or angle brace considered as equipment? What about those colourful elastic therapeutic tapes that top golfers and indeed athletes place on various part of their bodies? Do these tapes and braces offend the rules of golf? “The spirit of Rule 4 is simple; players must not use equipment that create a potential advantage,” Ayodo added.
“Rule 4.3b deals with ‘equipment used for medical reasons’ and it states that a player is not in breach if he uses equipment to help with a medical condition. However, there are some conditions in place to prevent abuse of the rule. Rule 4.3b(2) deals specifically with ‘tape of similar coverings’ and it states - that a player may use adhesive tape or a similar covering for any medical reason - however - the tape or covering must not be applied excessively and it must not help the player to immobilise a joint for example.”
Does that therapeutic tape even work? At the 2008 Beijing Games, USA firm Kinesio issued out, free of charge, 50,000 rolls of tape to athletes from 58 competition nations. This clever marketing ploy worked and suddenly more and more amateur and Pro athletes were seen using the tapes around the globe. And whilst there is no clear evidence that these tapes help with muscle activity, blood or lymphatic circulation or even pain, their use has continued to grow.
So, is my wrist brace legit? Can I continue to use it. “If you are in doubt about any medical aid you are using, write to your golf committee and seek advice on whether whatever equipment you are using is permissible under the rules,” Ayodo added. “Players who use equipment in contravention of the rules are subject to penalties and even disqualification.”
Enjoy an injury free golfing weekend.