Whether you’re an avid golfer who plays every weekend or a player who only breaks out the clubs a couple of times a year, being in the best shape possible can improve your game and head off any golf-related injuries.
If your body is not at its best, you won’t hit the ball properly, which can lead to injury, a poor game and resulting frustration, not a good way to enjoy the sport.
“Golfers with muscle tightness, joint restriction or poor body mechanics can struggle to consistently execute their golf swings,” writes physical therapist Julie Paolino. “Golfers seeking help from a physical therapist with expertise in golf performance can achieve proper biomechanics and body movement while avoiding injury, eliminating pain from an existing injury and/or improving the consistency of the golf swing.”
In his article, “Rehab Your Golf Swing,” physical therapist Dr. Brian P. Kinmartin writes that 80% of all golfers will experience some type of injury while playing the game, many of which can be prevented. And improving your golf swing with the help of a physical therapist can not only improve your performance, but keep you in the game for a long time.
Here’s the full story:
Posture, body mechanics, flexibility and conditioning play a large role in golf swing dynamics.
Limitations in any of these areas can cause altered swing mechanics which places excessive stress on joints and soft tissues causing injury and pain which limits the ability to play the game.
Some of the more common ailments experienced by golfers are neck and back pain, shoulder pain, elbow pain, hip and knee pain. Back pain is the most common complaint of golfers. The golf swing puts an extreme amount of stress throughout the neck, back and spine.
The pain caused by golf is usually mechanical in origin caused by poor swing mechanics from physical limitations in spinal mobility, which places excessive stress on the spinal joints, discs and nerves. Using proper posture and body mechanics when carrying and lifting your bag, maintaining a good posture with putting and squatting to pick up your ball instead of bending over can assist with limiting stress to the back and preventing injury.
Slowing down your backswing and making sure you achieve proper weight shift during your back swing will minimize rotational stresses to the lower back and prevent injury as well.
Elbow pain is also very common in golfers, and can be caused by excessive strain with club impact, excessive grip pressure, too much speed during the backswing and poor transition from backswing to downswing. So try loosening up your grip, moving the ball to avoid excessive impact on surrounding structures and using a more elliptical swing to avoid divoting and placing stress to the elbow.
Shoulder pain is also very common among golfers, with the most common cause being weakness or dysfunctions of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a dynamic group of muscles that assists with elevating the arm, and provides stability to the shoulder joint once the arm is overhead. Dysfunction of the rotator cuff can severely alter your back and down swing making you lose the power and distance of your drive. A rotator cuff strengthening program can assist in preventing this.
Loss of hip mobility is the main cause of hip pain with golf. The hip is exposed to high velocity rotational stresses especially on the down swing which requires a lot of mobility, but also a lot of stability of the surrounding pelvic musculature. Deficits in either mobility or stability in the hip can cause excessive stress to the joint, causing hip and groin pain. A hip mobility and core stabilization program of the trunk and pelvic musculature can assist in protecting the hip joint from injury.
Excessive rotational stresses to the knee during the golf swing can cause damage to the cartilage and ligaments. Cartilage in the knee is particularly vulnerable to rotational stresses. The key to preventing cartilage injuries to the knee is ensuring that the proper rotational mobility is available to the surrounding joints including the lower leg, hip and back. This will ensure that there is no excessive compressive overload to the knee during the swing and prevent injury.
Whether you are a pro golfer, amateur, or a weekend warrior awareness of posture, proper flexibility, strength and conditioning are all equally important. Golfers spend thousands of dollars every year on new clubs but show minimal investment in the most important piece of equipment they have, their bodies.
Physical therapists are licensed healthcare professionals trained in the evaluation and treatment of musculoskeletal and movement dysfunctions. Many golfers are now seeking the skills of physical therapists for consultations on joint mobility, flexibility, strength and conditioning deficits that are affecting their swing dynamics and ultimately their game performance.
While working with physical therapists golfers are getting individualized training programs addressing, balance, body mechanics, posture and fitness which is reducing their number of strokes, increasing the accuracy of their ball strike, increasing their driving distance and reducing the stress on their muscle and joints. This is increasing their performance on the course and keeping them in the game for a longer time.