Golf Corner: Casting, Scooping, or Early Release and Golfer’s Elbow

December 15, 2009 | by Dr. Jess

Elbow Injury: Golfer’s Elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is a common ailment among amateur golfers.  The pain is felt on or around the bony prominence of the inside part of the elbow, near your “funny bone”.  The injury occurs when the muscles that attach to the this area become overloaded due to excessive repetitive forces, weakened muscles, inflexibility, and poor mechanics of the joint.  The tendon, therefore, cannot keep up with the demand of transferring forces and becomes inflamed.  If the golfer does not rest the elbow, he/she could develop what is called tendinosis which refers to the degeneration of the tendon attaching to the medial epicondyle.
Medial Epicondyle of the Elbow

Medial Epicondyle of the Elbow

Swing Faults: One common swing fault, casting/early release or scooping, can cause golfer’s elbow.  Titleist Performance Institute found that 55.9% of amateur golfers early released or scooped.  Casting or early release is referred to the premature release of the wrist angle during the downswing and through impact.  This is similar to the motion of casting a fishing pole (underhand, of course.)  Scooping refers to the golfer “scooping” up the ball to get loft by having the hands behind the club head at impact.  These swing faults can cause the club face to loft, creating loss of power and high loft ball patterns.  In order to gain more distance, the golfer may attempt to swing harder and faster to gain more distance.  This can cause excessive use of the wrist flexors attaching to the medial epicondyle and thus, golfer’s elbow.
Example of Early Release

Example of Early Release

Causes: As I’ve said before, there are many causes to swing faults such as poor technique and poor club fit in addition to poor mechanics and human movement.  I will focus on the physical causes.
  • A number of lower body altered biomechanics can cause Casting or Scooping such as: Poor hip mobility, poor core strength or stability, poor ankle mobility, and poor pelvic control all can cause the body to initiate the swing sequence with the upper body.
  • Poor grip and forearm strength can cause a golfer to use the forearm muscles beyond their capabilities.  This will cause the tendons attaching to the medial elbow to eventually breakdown over time.
  • Poor wrist flexibility can force the golfer to early release since the wrist just cannot get into the proper position during the downswing.
Video analysis is key to determining swing faults causing injury where as a proper golf biomechanical assessment is necessary to diagnose the physical limitations, restricitions, or imbalances causing the swing faults.