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How To Prevent Disc Golf Injuries

By Nicholas Wilson | 04/15/2021
How To Prevent Disc Golf Injuries

Injuries are a part of disc golf. The more you play the more you know this to be true. While it is a relatively low-impact sport compared to many others, the repetitive nature of disc golf lends itself to potential injuries. The sudden acceleration and power of each shot adds up over time. This makes it necessary to take care of our bodies if we are to play disc golf for years to come. And of course, we want this! So, with this in mind, here are 3 ways to prevent injuries in disc golf:

  1. 1. Stretch Before Playing
  2. 2. Learn Proper Technique.
  3. 3. Train Specifically for Disc Golf

I’ll break these down in a bit, but first, let’s take a look at disc golf-based injury research.

Injury Research

According to a ​research paper​ posted in the Orthopaedic Journal Of Sports Medicine entitled “Disc Golf, a Growing Sport: Description and Epidemiology of Injuries,” disc golf injuries most commonly occur in the shoulder and elbow. Dr. Joseph Nelson MD and his colleagues collected data from 883 disc golfers in 2015. A surprising statistic revealed that “More than 81% of respondents stated that they had sustained an injury playing disc golf.” Specifically, 46% of respondents said they had injured their elbow while another 43% reported an injury to their shoulder.

Other aspects of note from this research are that predominantly forehand throwers have a much greater risk of elbow injury than backhand throwers. While injuries to the shoulder and elbow are the most common, injuries to the back and knees are not far behind (31% and 28% respectively reported injuries to these areas) and tended to result in longer downtime and often reoccurred.

These are significant numbers. Upon reading them I was taken aback but not shocked when I looked at my disc golf career through the lens of personal injuries. I must admit I do not think of disc golf as a sport that makes its players injury-prone. But upon further investigation, I have certainly had both shoulder and elbow issues that have kept me sidelined for periods of time. They typically would come about during periods when my disc golf “addiction” was particularly strong. Specifically when I would play multiple rounds a day without proper warmup.

Seth Munsey, the founder of ​Disc Golf Strong, had this to say about longevity in our sport; “If we want to play this sport every day and play it forever, we’re going to need to put more work into it than just going and playing…The great thing about our sport is you can do it every day—the bad thing about our sport is you can do it every day.”

I want all of us to play as much disc golf as we possibly can. But we are misguided if we think we can continually show up to the course and play without putting in the work behind the scenes. With this in mind, let’s break down the 3 ways to prevent injuries in disc golf.

Stretch Before Playing

This is the easiest habit to start. We all know we are supposed to stretch before we play but do we always do it? When I bypass stretching I am typically so excited to play that I just hop right onto the course. I now recognize that I am putting myself at risk of injury and stunting my ability to play more disc golf in the future.

There are two types of stretching; dynamic stretching and static stretching. Static stretching involves moving a joint as far as it can go and holding it for a length of time, typically 30 to 90 seconds. Static stretching is the way most of us learned to stretch. In contrast, dynamic stretching is actively moving joints and muscles with sports-specific motions for around 10-to-12 repetitions, targeting certain muscle groups. It is recommended to use dynamic stretching for warming up before a round and static stretching for cooling down post-round.

Dr. Anne Rex is a staff physician within the Center for Sports Health in the Department of Orthopaedics at the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Rex has a special interest in treating sports-related orthopaedic and musculoskeletal injuries and returning athletes safely back to play. Here is what she had to say in relation to the difference between dynamic and static stretching;

“Dynamic stretching mimics the activity or the movement that you’re going to do in whatever sport or activity you’re about to start. It helps rehearse the movement patterns so the muscles tend to get excited a little bit earlier and faster which can help improve power and increase coordination.” Then about static stretching; “When you’re static stretching, the muscles aren’t warmed up. It’s really more of a relaxation movement. So the better recommendation would be to do static stretching as part of the cool-down process instead.”

Below is a disc golf specific warm up brought to you by Seth Munsey of Disc Golf Strong. Notice these are all versions of dynamic stretching.

Learn Proper Technique

Learning proper technique will take unnecessary stress off the weak links of our body, namely joints (elbows, shoulders, knees, etc.). Many players will try to make up for their lack of technique with extra effort. This is a recipe for an injury that many players fall into. While it may not happen immediately, the repetitive nature of disc golf may bring about a gradual onset of injuries.

Slow your body down. This provides the arena for which proper technique can take shape. Use this saying as a mantra, “Slow is smooth, smooth is far.” When you slow your body down it naturally wants to slide into its most comfortable and powerful pockets. It is when we speed up this process and force movement that we risk injury. Disc golf is a sport of short, powerful bursts with many repetitions. Injuries can seem to occur quickly but typically occur over years of accumulated stress on the body.

Simon Lizotte is one of the longest throwers on tour. He has exquisite form and is a prime example of how to get the most out of your form. His entire approach is of a calculated tempo, nice and slow and smooth. Check out his form critique in this ​video​ where he breaks down technique for a right-handed backhand throw.

Train Specifically For Disc Golf

Disc golf is a sport. When we treat it as such we prepare our bodies for the rigors of what we put our bodies through. While it is low impact compared to the majority of other sports, its repetitive nature can lead to injury. Thus, if you plan to play disc golf consistently for years to come, training specifically for disc golf will keep you in the game.

When training, it is important to focus on strengthening the large muscle groups of the body. These help stabilize the joints and moving parts and relieve stress from overuse. Alongside gaining strength in the large muscle groups, it is important to gain strength in the smaller muscles in the arm. As was pointed out earlier, the majority of disc golf injuries occur in the shoulder and elbow regions.

The ​below video​ by Seth Munsey and Ricky Wysocki shows a four-exercise circuit training session targeting shoulders, hips, and core. This video is a prime example of how to train the large muscles to stabilize the body while also strengthening the elbow region to minimize the risk of injury. Research more videos by Munsey on his ​YouTube channel​ to find exercises that work for you. Come up with your own routine based on what works for you.

Conclusion

Disc golf is a sport. Let’s treat it like one. If we all want to play disc golf long into our twilight years we must put in the work off the course. To do so we must stretch before we play, learn proper technique, and train specifically for disc golf. A little bit of investment will go a long way towards our well-being. I wish you all many pain-free rounds for years into the future.

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