Tiger Woods’s knee and neck, Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia’s sprained wrist, LPGA star Michelle Wie’s twisted ankle, Masters champ Fred Couples’s back pain — the list of injuries among today’s pro players is a long one. The list of injuries among recreational players is no doubt equally long, but many injuries can be prevented.
When you have diabetes, especially if you haven’t been active recently, a good place to start is with a visit to your doctor for both a physical exam and a conversation about what types of exercise are safe for you. You’ll want to have your cardiovascular health assessed, as well as your eyes and feet, before you start a new program of physical activity. If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, for example, or certain types of retinopathy, your doctor may advise you to seek treatment before increasing your activity. Any loss of sensation in your feet may mean that extensive walking is not a good idea for you (and a golf cart is!). For most people, however, the most important thing is to start slowly and build up gradually.
Before heading out to the first tee, warm up your muscles with a few minutes of brisk walking or jogging, then do some stretches, being sure to stretch your arms and shoulders. For example, roll your shoulders forward and backward, swing your arms in big circles, gently twist your torso to the left and right, and do some leg and back stretches. Follow your stretches with practice swings: first with your shorter irons, and gradually building to full swings. (For more details on stretching see “Injury Prevention Resources.”) Now you’re ready to head out to the course.
Even after you’ve graduated from beginner lessons and are playing golf independently, have a pro check your grip and your swing from time to time to correct any bad habits that could lead to injury. (For additional resources and suggestions, also see “Golfing With Disabilities.”)
Maintaining the right attitude
At the “19th hole,” I’ve watched others enjoy a cheeseburger, fries, and beer, and sometimes I’m tempted to order the same meal. After all, at the end of a round, you’re tired, you’re famished, and maybe you’re feeling discouraged as well, asking yourself whether your game will ever improve. (Or maybe you’re feeling like rewarding yourself for a particularly great round!) At moments like these, it’s easy to forget all the benefits you’ve reaped simply by playing, no matter what your final score. But poor food choices at the finish can undermine those healthy gains made on the course.
When I need a little boost of inspiration, I look to pro players such as Scott Verplank, a PGA Tour player who also has Type 1 diabetes. He’s in great shape: At 5′9″, he weighs in at 165 pounds. His driving distance averages 278 yards. He wears an insulin pump on the course. In team tournaments like the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup, he has represented the United States seven times, beginning with the Walker Cup in 1985 at Pine Valley, when the United States won 13–11 over Great Britain and Ireland. He came very close to winning the Travelers Championship last June.
Some other pro golfers with diabetes include LPGA Tour players Kelli Kuehne, Michelle McGann, and Sherri Turner. Like Verplank, Kelli Kuehne also has Type 1 diabetes and uses an insulin pump.
These men and women are athletes, who use this sport to stay in good health. They compete not only against other players but against themselves and against diabetes — and they are winning. You can, too.