Hip pain may be less common in golfers than back, elbow and knee injuries but studies suggest it is one of the top ten problems affecting players and when it strikes, it can seriously impact both your game and quality of life.
Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2019 found that almost a fifth of professional players reported hip pain. But the stress placed on muscles and joints during the golf swing means even keen amateurs are at risk.
‘A significant amount of rotation is involved and you are doing that repeatedly, so you can run into problems both with the joint itself and surrounding muscles,’ explains specialist consultant hip surgeon Simon Newman from King Edward VII’s Hospital.
Muscle pain can often be treated with rest and over-the-counter painkillers but there are simple steps you can take to prevent injury in the first place.
According to Dr Newman, a proper warm-up is key.
Before you hit the green
‘You need to make sure you are properly stretched before you start your round,’ he says. ‘That means getting to the course early and exercising those muscles around your hip and back, so they are nice and flexible before you start going out there and hitting the ball.’
Making sure you are using the right sized clubs is vital. It can also be helpful to enlist the services of a professional coach to improve technique and ensure your swing isn’t putting undue stress on the joint.
‘Another basic is making sure your back and hip muscles are good and strong, so I would recommend doing something like Pilates on a fairly regular basis,’ adds Dr Newman.
However, when pain becomes pronounced or persistent, it’s time to consult a medical professional.
When hip pain won’t go away
‘If you have pain that doesn’t go away after rest or starts to interfere with other areas of your life, waking you up during the night or making it difficult to sit in a car for long periods, these are signs there may be something else going on,’ he says.
Persistent pain could indicate a more severe muscle injury, joint impingement, where there is abnormal contact between the ball and socket, or arthritis. Simon says anyone experiencing severe symptoms, or more minor symptoms for longer than six weeks, should seek a medical assessment.
The comprehensive hip assessment offered at King Edward VII’s Hospital’s Specialist Hip Unit includes a full physical examination and X-ray. In many cases, patients can be diagnosed the same day and may be able to commence treatment immediately. Some conditions, such as impingement, may require an MRI scan but this can be offered at a reduced price and usually within a couple of days.
The important thing is that pain relief is at hand.
Treatment options for hip pain
‘For muscle injuries, the mainstay of treatment is usually a course of physiotherapy combined with anti-inflammatory medication,’ Dr Newman explains, ‘but steroid injections or platelet rich plasma injections can also help to settle down inflammation. For hip impingement, treatment options like physiotherapy or injections may be appropriate, but keyhole surgery can also be very effective at relieving that discomfort. Treatment for arthritis varies from exercise and painkillers to cortisone injections or hip replacement surgery.’
Surgery can sound scary, but hip replacement operations have come a long way over the last decade. Simon says new minimally invasive techniques have made for much shorter hospital stays, sometimes even performed as day surgery, and faster recovery times. What is more, the durability of modern prosthetics means that the overwhelming majority of patients will never need further surgery.
Although you will need to gradually build-up endurance, Dr Newman says most players can hit the course again in around six weeks. And without the pain of an arthritic hip.
‘The aim of the hip replacement is to allow you to return to a pain-free mobile hip that enables you to do everything you want to do,’ he says, ‘so you should be able to forget about the fact that you’ve had the operation.’