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Injuries in Disc Golf: An Introduction

In our previous blog post series, Pandemic Project: Designing a Disc Golf Course, we discussed course development, maintenance, and how long the backyard course took to complete. The course project was an ambitious goal we achieved in a year of uncertainty due to Covid-19, so please check out those blog posts!

In this series, we look at the unfortunate reality of common injuries in disc golf. Disc golf requires mobility, force production, strength, and proper technique to ensure accurate throws with variable distance. When one of these requirements breaks down due to an injury, our performance significantly drops or at times is halted in its tracks. While these injuries can occur in specific locations in the body, it is common that the site of injury is not necessarily the entire cause of injury. For example, jumping sports such as basketball and volleyball often have associated knee injuries due improper jumping and landing biomechanics. However, these knee injuries tend to result from improper hip strength, positioning, and mobility which will place increased stress at the knee or ankle resulting in a higher risk of injury at those respective sites. This concept applies to disc golf as well which will be discussed in future blog posts as we focus on specific injuries. In this blog post, we look at two studies that assessed the prevalence of injuries and the general locations at which these injuries occur.

In a study conducted by Nelson et al1, an online survey was used to collect data covering injuries in disc golf broken down by location, description or symptoms of their injury, how the type of throw affected their symptoms or proceeded their injury, and treatment. Out of 883 responses, 81% stated that they have sustained an injury playing disc golf. These injury locations ranked by responses are elbow of the throwing arm (46.0%), shoulder of the throwing arm (43.1%), back (30.8%), knee (28.1%), and ankle (21.2%). Also, it was found that elbow injuries occur more often in forehand throwers. It is also important to note that roughly 65% of participants reported previous injuries in non-disc golf related events. These injuries were often described as muscle strain, ligament strain, or tendinitis. Also, most injury responses included a mechanism of repetitive stress (57.4%) or a one time traumatic event during a single throw (29.4%). In terms of treatment, over 68% of participants did seek some form of medical treatment for their injuries.1 This study helps to introduce common injury sites in disc golf, as well as prevalence and common symptoms. Most participants reported injuries to either the elbow or shoulder, described as a muscle strain caused by repetitive motions and sought treatment from either a doctor visit or a physical therapy.

Similar findings in a study conducted by Rahbek et al2 suggest a pattern in the location of common injuries. In this study, 105 participants responded to a questionnaire covering injuries from disc golf related events. A 39% disc golf career injury prevalence was found at locations such as the shoulder (31%) and the elbow (20%) of the throwing arm more commonly than any other sites. Symptoms tended to last more than a month in 66.7% of participants. Also, only 43% of participants received technical guidance for disc golf related guidance during their first year, which may indicate that proper instruction can reduce risk of injury in new players.2 This study also suggests that the elbow and shoulder of the throwing arm are the most common sites of injury in a disc golf thrower., with symptoms potentially lasting for more than 30 days.

Both of the studies discussed help illustrate common injury locations, symptoms, injury duration, possible injury mechanism, and treatment. Injuries at the elbow and shoulder of the throwing arm are consistently reported as the most commonly sustained injuries in disc golf. These injuries can occur as a result of a muscle strain, ligament sprain, tendinitis, or a more severe injury from a traumatic event. Depending on the injury, symptoms can last anywhere from a week to a few months. Treatment of these injuries is specific to the location of the injury, surrounding areas or joints, and what structures are involved.

We hope you enjoyed this research based introduction to common injuries in disc golf. In future blog posts in this series, we will take a more focused approach to common injury areas individually. We will discuss injury pathology, common symptoms, treatment, and prevention of injury recurrence. Simply put, we will cover what the injury is, what you will commonly feel with a specific injury, how to treat these injuries, and most importantly give you the tools to help prevent the injury from returning.

*Medical Disclaimer: Although this blog was written by a Licensed Physical Therapist, all content and information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only, it does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, and does not establish any kind of patient-client relation by use of this website. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers with any questions you may have regarding your individual medical condition. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only. Airmail Discs LLC makes no representation and assumes no responsibility for the accuracy, application, or use of information contained on or available through this web site. NEVER DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY SEEKING MEDICAL TREATMENT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU HAVE READ ON OR ACCESSED THROUGH THIS WEBSITE.*

1. Nelson JT, Jones RE, Runstrom M, Hardy J. Disc Golf, a Growing Sport: Description and Epidemiology of Injuries. Orthop J Sports Med. 2015 Jun 25;3(6):2325967115589076. doi: 10.1177/2325967115589076. PMID: 26665099; PMCID: PMC4622370. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

2. Rahbek MA, Nielsen RO. INJURIES IN DISC GOLF - A DESCRIPTIVE CROSS-SECTIONAL STUDY. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2016 Feb;11(1):132-40. PMID: 26900508; PMCID: PMC4739042. [PubMed]

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