Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Injured Golfers and Their Artificial Equipment

One of golf’s best known phrases amongst both professionals and amateurs is, “Beware of the sick or injured golfer”. As a recent example of this truism, I mention Henrik Stenson, who claimed to be suffering from a cold and fatigue immediately before recording a 63, his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, during the Deutsche Bank Championship, at the beginning of September, which he went on to win. Subsequently, he has also won the Tour Championship to wrap up the FedEx Cup, with its $10 million prize. On an entirely different level, I know that I have often played well (OK better!) when I have taken to the course wearing a lower back brace, knee support or ankle bandage to minimise the discomfort of an arthritic joint. I am definitely not a swing expert, but I presume that when a golfer plays whilst suffering from an illness or injury, they may subconsciously correct unidentified bad practices by being forced to swing slower, rotate more conservatively, improve concentration, stay relaxed, etc.

Anyway, what has the above got to do with the Rules of Golf? It is Rule 14-3, Artificial Devices, Unusual Equipment and Unusual Use of Equipment, that is the most relevant Rule. In particular, Exception 1 states;
A player is not in breach of this Rule if (a) the equipment or device is designed for or has the effect of alleviating a medical condition, (b) the player has a legitimate medical reason to use the equipment or device, and (c) the Committee is satisfied that its use does not give the player any undue advantage over other players.
This Exception is further clarified by these Decisions:
  • Decision 14-3/7 rules that although a player may wear an elastic bandage for medical purposes they must not insert their thumb under the bandage, as such an action would constitute use of equipment in an unusual manner.
  • Decision 14-3/8 rules that the use of adhesive tape, or similar coverings of the hand, for any medical reasons, e.g., to reduce blisters or to eliminate the possibility of skin splits between the fingers, is permitted. However, if the tape is used solely to aid the player in gripping the club (e.g., it is used to bind two fingers together), the player is in breach of Rule 14-3, as such use of tape is the use of equipment in an unusual manner.
  • Decision 14-3/13 rules that golfers who suffer from cold hands may use a hand warmer, even though it is an artificial device, because its use to warm the hands is traditionally accepted. However, it may not be used to purposely warm a golf ball during a stipulated round (Decision 14-3/13.5).
  • Decision 14-3/15 rules that a player who has a legitimate medical reason to wear an artificial limb may wear it to play competitive golf, even if the limb has been modified to aid them in playing the game. However, the Committee must be satisfied that the artificial limb does not give the player any undue advantage over other players.
According to ‘Dr. Divot's Guide to Golf Injuries’ the top ten golfing injuries are;
1. Back Pain
2. Golfer's Elbow (similar to tennis elbow)
3. Shoulder Pain
4. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
5. DeQuervain's Tendinitis (pain in the wrist near the base of the thumb)
6. Knee Pain
7. Trigger Finger (causing fingers to lock up)
8 – 10. Various wrist injuries
I suspect that many of us can tick off one or more of these when we take to the course. Just ensure that if you use any equipment or device to alleviate a medical condition you do not do so in a way that could give you an undue advantage over other players.
Good golfing,

If you have a question on the Rules of Golf please try using a search term in the ‘Search This Blog’ box at the top right hand side of any of my blog pages, which now cover over 280 entries on the Rules. For example, if you enter “embedded ball” you will receive several links to this important subject, including this one from December 2010.

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