By Jay Sears, PT, DPT, COMT
The game of golf is popular among individuals of all ages and skill level. Golf can be a sport of great enjoyment as well as a game of tremendous frustration, due to inconsistencies with a player’s swing. Amateur golfers spend countless hours and significant money trying to improve their swing. Golfers will change clubs and take multiple lessons from golf pros to improve swing technique, accuracy and increase driving distances off the tee. Many times the problem with a golfer’s swing is due to physical limitations rather than issues with technique or equipment. These can be identified through a functional movement screen or specific golf physical assessment. These physical limitations can eventually lead to pain, injury and further poor or limited golf performance.
Most amateur golfers that participate in the game on a frequent basis will at some point experience some type of pain or injury. Low back pain is one of the most common injuries among golfers due to the dynamic forces on the spine during the golf swing. A study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2007 found low back pain to be the most prevalent injury among 588 amateur golfers followed over a one-year period.
Specific functional movement screens are available to assess for physical limitations that will predispose a golfer to certain swing faults or injury. The golf swing involves a great deal of rotational force through the body—those forces must be transferred throughout the body and into the club head in a sequential order to allow for proper force during impact in order to prevent abnormal stress on the spine or body. Two of the most common swing faults amateur golfers demonstrate are a reverse spine angle and early extension.
A reverse spine angle is when a golfer demonstrates excessive backward or lateral bending of the spine during the backswing. This swing fault makes it difficult to develop the appropriate sequence and force on their downswing.
A reverse spine angle swing fault is the most common cause of low back pain in golfers. Many times this swing fault is due to limited hip or spinal rotation and can put increased compressive forces on the vertebrae of the lower spine. A study by Lindsay and colleagues found that professional golfers with a history of low back pain had less spinal rotation and increased lateral flexion force of their spine during the backswing than golfers without a history of low back pain.
Early extension is another common swing fault that occurs on a golfer’s downswing. It occurs when the golfer’s body thrusts or shifts forward toward the golf ball on the downswing and can cause the arms to get stuck behind the body. The golfer will typically stand up with their body in their downswing. Many times this will cause the ball to block to the right or hook to the left and the golfer will often complain of feeling trapped on their downswing. Physical causes of this swing fault can include limited lead hip rotation and decreased stability of the trunk.
Physical therapists are able to address these physical limitations through manual therapy techniques such as joint mobilizations of the hip or spine to increase rotation. Additional treatments consist of myofascial techniques such as myofascial release or dry needling to decrease myofascial restrictions within muscles limiting proper rotation through the shoulders, spine or hips. Manual therapy along with a golf-specific exercise program to address a golfer’s physical limitations can lead to significant improvement in a golfer’s handicap and alleviation of pain. Many physical therapists are certified and trained in performing golf-specific movement screens to assess for these physical limitations and they can work directly with your club pro to correct your swing faults.
For further information on setting up a golf specific functional movement screen or exercise program contact Results Physiotherapy.
320 Bristol West Blvd., Ste. 2A
Orthopedic and Pelvic Health Therapy
2312 Knob Creek Rd., Ste 200
210 S. Cumberland St.
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