If I Was… An Injured (Old) Golfer

By Jim McNaney




Even though I am a card-carrying member of the AARP (hey don’t mock it… the discounts are awesome), I really don’t like to admit I am getting older.

Like many, I am finding that aging brings with it some less than enjoyable side-affects. Sure, age begets experience and experience begets wisdom, but not everything is better as we get older.

I am not talking about the fact that I can’t stay up until Midnight on New Year’s Eve anymore, or that I would now rather spend an afternoon sitting quietly by a lake than spend an evening downtown.

I am not even talking about the losing yardage off the tee. Actually, I am a bit longer now than I was 10 years ago thanks mostly to better technology.

No… I am talking about PAIN!

There is an old saying among athletes, “There is a difference between pain and injury.”

While a doctor or a personal trainer will tell you there is actually a defined difference between the two, at my age I need to remember that if there is pain and I ignore it… there will be injury.

The macho days of my youth of playing through pain on multiple occasions needs to give way to prudence. If not, I will continually find myself in the situation I am in now.

Recently I experienced some pain and swelling in my right elbow. It wasn’t too bad, although it did hurt like a moth… oops, sorry… it hurt a lot when I swung a club. I figured it was no big deal and decided to play in a couple charity events I was committed to.

“It’s just a little tendonitis,” I convinced myself. “No big deal. Take some Advil and get on with it.”

Bad choice…

Now I am on the verge of losing the rest of the golf season to a possible torn tendon in my right elbow. The thought of being on the sidelines during the best days of Minnesota golf is crushing. My favorite time of year to play golf “Up North” is in September and early October. Now because of my childish ego, I may miss out.

Fortunately, my day job allows me access to professional performance trainers and physical therapists. Over the past few days, with the help of both, I am going through therapy and receiving treatment that may… just may allow me to only miss a few weeks of the fall. The hope is to be back swinging a club by September 14th.

It could have been much worse. Had it not been for one of the trainers at my workplace noticing the bulbus mass on my right elbow, I most likely would have completely torn my radial tendon. That would have required surgery and 12 weeks of recovery at a minimum.

To give some context as to why I would have ignored this or tried to “play through the pain.” I was taught throughout my athletic career that if something hurt, but I could still function, I had to play. I could not let my teammates down.

Hell… I literally had a high school trainer that told us on multiple occasions to “tape an aspirin to it and stop being a baby.” The thought of going to a doctor for something that, while painful but not debilitating, would never enter my mind. Unfortunately, Father Time is undefeated, and I need to retrain how I think.

With the guidance of my friends in the sports performance world, I now have a new mantra. If it hurts… get it checked out.

Apparently, as we age, pain is our body’s way of telling us to either stop doing something or find a better way of doing it. It is no longer useful nor wise to “play through the pain.”

Apparently, age and experience do not ALWAYS beget wisdom.

It will be difficult for me to change my ways. Over 50 years of training is not easy to overcome. But, as I tell my students on the lesson tee, anyone can retrain themselves and old habits may die-hard but they can die.

If you are like me and find yourself with some nagging pains from golf, do yourself a favor and get them checked out early. Tendonitis is a rather common one for golfers. A few others you may want to pay attention to according to my trainer friends are knee pain, ankle/foot pain, hand soreness, hip pain or weakness and (maybe the biggest) back pain of any type.

After you get these pains checked out and therapy is offered… USE IT. Much of today’s therapy and performance training is geared around injury prevention. After you have healed, you don’t want to go through it again so stay with the training.

Finally, get with a golf professional and have them talk to your PT or trainer and make you’re your golf swing does not cause a repeat injury.

As for me… now I sit and rest the elbow. Hopefully with the help of my friends and some newfound wisdom I will be back playing golf soon.