Thanks to global warming, planes, trains, and automobiles, golf is a year round sport. For this reason, many golfers develop and play through injuries that over time become chronic issues. Unlike other sports and pastimes, golfers often do not have an off-season to rest and restore their bodies. We do know, however, that those who adopt a prevention focused practice, will be playing the game into old age and with fewer injuries than their pals who decided to push through the pain.
The Most Common Injuries For Golfers
Low back pain
Golf is a great workout. It integrates strength, power, stability, control and endurance. One might think with all of these aspects of fitness being addressed every time you hit the course, that your overall health and relative injuries should be unremarkable. This is not the case. 50% of golfers develop chronic problems that lead to chronic conditions that force them to give up the game or live with pain, not to mention their suffering score.
The Most Common Mechanisms of Injury Amongst Golfers
- Poor Body Mechanics: This means that your body’s ability to transfer and shift force, range of motion, and fluidity of movement from start, to swing, and follow through are un-ideal.
- Overuse Injuries: If you are golfing regularly, or are participating in repetitive movements without ample time for the tissue to heal you may be incurring overuse syndromes like tendonitis.
- Lack of Cross-Training: Cross training is when you participate in a variety of activities that support healthy development of all structures and systems of your body. For example: weight training for strength,; agility and plyometric exercises for coordination, speed and power; cardiovascular training for endurance, heart and respiratory health; yoga for balance & flexibility as well as improved mind body integration; Pilates for core control and spinal stability.
Some other causes that are less commonly discussed but important as they impact the aforementioned causes are:
- Poor Club Fitting: ultimately if you don’t have the correct size club, overtime you are doing more harm than good. Take the time to have a proper fitting at your pro-shop; you may have been playing for years and know what “feels” good, but trust an expert and you will notice a difference.
- Poor Nutrition & Dehydration: On and off the course, you should make healthy food choices that promote tissue repair and reduce inflammation. The bulk of your plate should contain vegetables, lean organic meats and fish, fruits. If you don’t put good fuel in the tank, you can’t expect your engine to purr and perform.
So What? What Can I Do About It?
The best thing you can do for your long-term health and the longevity of your golf game is to work with a professional. Physical therapists are the biomechanics experts. We will discuss with you, your symptoms, daily habits, routines, and your goals moving forward. Our examination assesses your range of motion, strength, muscle length, flexibility, stability, coordination, balance and more, in order to synthesize why you are having mechanical or pathology related pain. That information is valuable for us to develop a plan of care including hands on manual techniques to improve your biomechanics, formulate a progressive exercise and lifestyle modifications to keep you on the course while your body heals, and your pain fades into the distance.
It All Comes Down To Kinematics
Kinematics is best understood by thinking about a car engine. An engine running smoothly depends greatly on the integrity of the structures that it is composed of and how well those parts work together to result in a cyclical pattern of movement and thus a running engine…and a running car. Lets think of your body in the same way. If your parts are broken-the machine won’t run properly. If a part is slightly out of place-the machine won’t run properly. If there isn’t enough lube, the parts are going to stick and the machine wont run properly. You see, whether you are having pain now, or not, if your body is out of alignment you are more than likely going to develop pain, degenerative conditions, overuse syndromes, etc in the future.
Our body is systematically organized so that as we look at each joint the demand of that joint alternates between stability and flexibility. Lets start and the top and work our way down-feel free to hum the head bone is connected to the neck bone and so on as we go. To function optimally:
Your Head and Neck NEED Stability
Your Thoracic Spine/Upper Back NEED Flexibility
Your Lumbar Spine/Low Back NEED Stability
Your Hips NEED Flexibility
Your Knees NEED Stability
Your Ankle NEED Flexibility
Your Feet NEED Stability
Now don’t get any ideas, and think that you need to rush off to get a brace or a new pair of shoes to “fix” yourself. It is critical that you take the time to have a pair of experienced eyes check you out, and skilled hands see how things “are really moving” before you go and self-prescribe. Notice how each joint alternates in need, and how when you think of movement, imagine your body as a chain of events; sequencing and depending on the quality of the quality of what happened at the joint before.
To support areas that need flexibility and stability, we use a variety of modalities to get your body back to optimal mechanical function. Some of these include
Trigger Point Dry Needling
Muscle Energy Technique
Deep Tissue Mobilization
In order to support the changes in your body that are brought about by the manual therapy, we use active exercises to maintain them. For golfers, by far, reformer based Pilates is the best means of retraining the body, and increasing stability throughout. Regardless of the severity of your symptoms and your presentation to your provider, your exercise program will be personalized to reflect your individual needs and goals.
In the meantime, make the following simple changes to improve your golf game and reduce injury:
- Skip The Cart & Walk The Course: It will reduce your blood pressure, strengthen your heart & lungs, relieve varicose veins, strengthen muscles, reduce colon cancer, maintain healthy cartilage, reduce stress and many more. Email me and I will gladly send you my full list of 100 reasons to walk.
- Stretch It Out: Take the 5 minutes after each game to do a few basic stretches. Focus on your hamstrings, hip flexors, chest, and low back to start. You should be holding each stretch 20-30 seconds and hitting on each area at least twice. Your PT exam will allow for you to know what stretches you need vs. what you don’t.
- Spice Up Your Routine: Add some Pilates, yoga, cycling, weight training, archery, billiards, or salsa dancing to your weekly activities. The more diverse the better.