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Golf: A contact sport?

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While it may be true that golf is not an actual contact sport in the literal sense, it is also true that a relaxing round with your buddies could prove to be more dangerous than you thought. Sure there’s the risk of being hit with an errant ball or your friend driving too fast and flipping the cart but there is a much more serious risk that is waiting for you: Lyme Disease.

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection caused by a deer tick bite. Simply put, it’s out there and it’s very serious. The Center for Disease Control reported in 2013 that New York State had 3512 confirmed cases with another 1103 probable. Nationwide there were 27,203 cases reported. Experts believe these numbers to actually be multiplied by 30 times, as many people infected go either misdiagnosed or untreated all together as the symptoms range from mildly annoying to debilitating.

Personally, I have been diagnosed twice in the past ten years and each time I got the tick bite while out playing golf. Golf courses, parks, backyards, fescue, woods and hiking trails are all very popular places to visit during the warmer months and they’re also the home to the infamous deer tick. Given their size, about the same size as a sesame seed, they are very hard to spot. Often times the tick has burrowed before you see it and it’s almost already too late.

How do you avoid the tick all together? Keeping your ball in the fairway would be a good start! As golfers, we know that is not always possible and we’ll do almost anything to find that little white ball you just hit deep into the woods. Whether it’s the prospect of being able to find it to save a few strokes or the principle of not losing another $4 Titleist Pro V1x, we almost always take a look. Since we’re all going to attempt to retrieve said ball, it’s very important you check yourself for ticks. Experts suggest wearing light colored pants, tucking your pant legs into your socks and visibly checking your clothes as often as possible.

Only 60 to 70 percent of infected persons develop the bullseye like rash so detection is not always so easy as a self-examination. Immediate symptoms include fatigue, irritability, headaches and joint pain. Most hard working people experience these symptoms on a daily basis so you can see why so many go undetected for so long.

Treated in a timely fashion, Lyme can easily be managed and cured. If infected and untreated, Lyme can present a myriad of health problems such as Bells Palsey and Arthritis. Ticks are also known to carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. RMSF is characterized by a sudden onset of moderate to high fever (which can last for two or three weeks), severe headache, fatigue, deep muscle pain, chills and rash. The rash begins on the legs or arms, may include the soles of the feet or palms of the hands and may spread rapidly to the trunk or rest of the body.

Want to give up the game and stay indoors until winter? Don’t sell your clubs just yet. Preventative measures will reduce your risk significantly.

Simple awareness is the biggest weapon we have so remember to check yourself often, wear light colored clothing when outdoors and keep your ball in the short grass. If you do think you may have been infected, get to a doctor right away and a strong dose of antibiotics will knock it right out.