With the proliferation of new golf courses, high tech golf clubs and golf balls that travel greater distance it is clear that the popularity of golf is growing. It is estimated that 26 million people in the US play golf on a regular basis, which represents a 33% increase during the past decade. Whether you are a novice or a pro, young or old your ability to enjoy golf depends more on what you do before you get to the course than with the new clubs that you own.
How can golf lead to back injuries? Playing golf requires a person to provide short bursts of physical exertion when swinging the golf club. These rapid and aggressive movements which are repeated many times during the course of a game place considerable amount of stress on the spine, spinal joints, ligaments and muscles. The repeated twisting or torsion placed on the body increases the likelihood of injuries to the back, neck, shoulders, knees and feet.
What contributes to this problem? The four main reasons for golf related injuries are a combination of poor posture, poor muscle tone and flexibility, poor spinal joint movement and poor technique.
Poor Posture. The alignment of your spine and body when preparing to swing the club is equally important to your alignment during the swing itself. Playing successfully requires that the spine and body be held in a neutral and balanced position before striking the ball. This is best achieved by placing the feet at shoulder width, knees slightly bent while maintaining the normal curves of the low back (lumbar) and neck (cervical) regions. Bending too far forward at the waist reduces these normal curves and increases the risk of injury. During the swing phase it is important to rotate your back, hips and shoulders together to minimize the torque placed on the low back and improve your ability to drive the ball effectively.
Poor Muscle Tone and Flexibility. Muscles that are too tight, easily fatigued or lack overall tone influences the fluidity of your swing. An effective swing requires the interplay of several large and small muscle groups during the different phases of the swing. If one or several of these muscle groups do not move effectively it will repeatedly compromise your swing and lead to potential injury.
Poor Spinal Joint Movement. The torque or twisting movement placed on the spine – especially the lower lumbar region can exceed the force that the joints can tolerate. This is especially true if the spinal joints are limited in movement. Limited movement of the hips, pelvis or mid back can also influence the fluidity of the swing causing a cascading effect on the low back. If joint movement is limited in the shoulders, elbows, knees or feet it will also help minimize a smooth swing and lead to injury.
Poor Technique. Poor technique is caused when a golfer does not initially receive instruction on proper swing mechanics. It is made worse by the combination of the poor posture, poor flexibility and poor spinal joint movement. Novice golfers will enjoy the game and decrease their chances of injury if they initially receive fundamental instruction and periodic evaluation of their swing mechanics.
Tips For Avoiding Injury
- Improving your golf swing biomechanics, avoiding injury and improving your enjoyment requires that you look at these four areas and with the help of golf instructor and a chiropractor or physical therapist. Unfortunately there is not a quick fix but understanding your problem areas and how to correct them will help your game.
- Improving your overall posture takes time and should be evaluated before you head to the golf course. Understanding how your posture helps or hurts your performance will improve your game and decrease chances of injury. Improving overall posture is a cumulative process and is best if done each day.
- Improving flexibility and increasing your overall muscle tone helps to reduce the stress placed on your spinal joints as well as allowing your to drive the golf ball more effectively. Persistence is the key. Chiropractors and PTs can provide you with golf specific stretches and strengthening exercises. Flexibility and muscle tone is also cumulative and should be done frequently.
- Improving spinal joint movement is essential. Restoring proper joint movement reduces the stress placed on the joints and muscles improving your swing and contact with the ball. Chiropractors specialize in evaluating and improving spinal joint movement.
- Using the services of a golf instructor will help to you to understand the mechanics of swinging a golf club and ways to improve your swing. Combining the knowledge and services of a golf instructor and chiropractor or physical therapist will help to improve your overall game and reduce the chances of injury.