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Preventing Golf Injuries

With golf season approaching there’s no better time to prep your body for lesser known demands of swinging a golf club. Winter may college homework help bring on a quick jet south for a round or two, but in general, most of us are taking fewer swings. A 2004 National Golf Foundation survey showed there are approximately 27.8 million golfers in the United States, a number that continues to increase with the rising popularity of the sport. With the average golfer playing nearly 37 rounds per year, not to mention hours and days spent at practice facilities or ranges, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that injuries are also on the rise.

Although golf has traditionally been viewed as a sport that is “easy” on the body, injuries are no stranger to the sport. A recent study has shown that nearly 60% of professionals and 40% of amateur golfers have experienced some sort of golf-related injury. The forceful repetition of a golf swing can place a fair amount of stress throughout the spine and knees. In fact, one study estimated 80% of golf injuries were related to a repetitive golf swing. Topping the list for most affected body parts were the low back, shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees. Like most things in life, low back pain (LBP) leads the way for injury and is the overwhelming favorite for golf-related injuries. LBP is often a result of faulty biomechanics that often arise from poor swing mechanics or anatomical limitations. Posture, flexibility, and weakness can not only affect your golf swing, but how you move in life. In fact, the majority of golfers will compromise their spine before they even swing the club.

The Role of Posture

Posture plays a large role in swing mechanics. Poor posture not only influences your ability to hit the long ball, but it can also introduce damaging forces throughout your body. Simply put, improper alignment of the spine and lower extremities will dampen your power and accuracy. Alignment is whittled down to finding a neutral spine. Finding a neutral spine will allow for more rotation through your hips, effectively engaging stronger muscles while reducing the strain to your low back. Your golf swing should be a product of your body rotating around the spine and not through it.

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Proper Alignment

A neutral spine position is shown in figure 1. Maintaining the natural curve of the low back will protect both on the front and back end of your swing. Studies conducted in 2002 and 2006 also stressed the importance of proper “stance to ball” distance as a contributing factor in LBP. They stated the farther away the ball is from your stance, the higher the incidence of LBP due to excessive lumbar flexion which in turn increases the pressure placed on the lumbar discs.1,2

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Flexed Posture

Figure 2 represents a more typical posture for golfers. A forward flexed posture or “C-posture” limits trunk rotation, causing more strain on the low back. Research conducted by Hosea and Gatt showed the importance of minimizing lumbar flexion during a golf set-up and swing by indicating that upwards of 8x an individual’s own body weight can be transmitted to a single segment of the low back. Additional flexion or a more aggressive C-Posture was associated with higher forces.3,4

Proper posture during your golf swing is crucial. It can effectively minimize the stress through the low back and improve performance. Posture and alignment allows your swing to occur through your hips, not your low back. Mastering improved posture is a simple and far less expensive way to add distance to every club.

Swinging a club is an art. It’s just as much flexibility as it is strength. Unfortunately, our jobs and lifestyles can limit our ability to swing efficiently and effectively. Tightness here or weakness there can not only take some distance off your long ball, but can also lead to injury. Join Buffalo Rehab Group and the YMCA in this interactive class that sheds light on exercises every golfer should perform.

References:
1) Lindsay D, Horton J. Comparison of spine motion in elite golferswith and without low back pain. J Sports Sci 2002;20(8):599–605.
2) Takahashi I, Kikuchi S, Sato K, Sato N. Mechanical load of the lumbar spine during forward bending motion of the trunkda biomechanical study. Spine 2006;31(1):18–23.
3)Hosea TM, Gatt CJ. Back pain in golf. Clin Sports Med 1996;15:37–53.
4) Hosea TM, Gatt CJ, Galli KM, Langrana NA, Zawadsky JP. Biochemical analysis of the golfer’s back. In: Cochran AJ, editor. Science and golf: proceedings of the First World Scientific Congress of Golf. London, UK: Human Kinetics, 1990:43–8.
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