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Lower your golf handicap while reducing your risk of injury on the links

With the arrival of warmer weather and summer fast approaching, how are you preparing to improve your golf game and avoid injury this season?

Despite golf being a low impact sport that athletes of all ages and skill levels are able to enjoy, injuries resulting from both improper swing mechanics and overuse burden amateur and professional golfers alike.   Common areas of golf injury include the low back, the shoulder, and the elbow.

Problems occur with poor swing mechanics and overuse -- how can you knock two “birdies” out with one stone?  Anyone who is a golfer or knows a golfer knows that reducing the rounds of golf played is typically not a viable option. 

There is a simplified strategy to avoid problems.

Address your biomechanical setup pre-season and maintain it throughout the season. Your biomechanical setup includes the following: your upper body, lower body, and core strength (including the symmetry of strength from right to left and front to back), your flexibility and range of motion as well as your balance and proprioception (knowing where your joint is in space and how it is moving), which affects your dynamic stability during your golf swing. 

To illustrate the importance of your setup, here are a few examples:

  • If your hip flexibility (primarily your lead hip/(L) hip in right-handed golfer) is limited, the torque from your swing will not be able to absorbed by the hip, but will instead be deleteriously imparted on your low back.  Add in multiple rounds of golf and, voila, you experience gnawing low back pain.
  • If your core muscle strength and endurance (with your hip abductors being one of the key groups) is not functionally solid in an upright posture at address with moving parts (swinging your club), you will “swing right out of your shoes.” How can you possibly maintain the proper swing plane with your club if your base from the ground up is not stable?  With a strong core, a golfer begins at address with good posture and is able to weight shift appropriately (from hind leg during backswing to lead leg during follow through). The ‘reverse pivot’ (seen as a “reverse C” end posture) is one of the most common swing faults seen in amateur golfers and results in a poor transfer of power paired with increased stress on one’s low back.
  • If you have weak parascapular muscles (muscles surrounding your shoulder blade), and therefore a dynamically unstable platform for your rotator cuff (RC) muscles to work off of, you are setting yourself up for a RC injury stemming from suboptimal biomechanics (i.e., RC must do greater work  to control eccentric swing forces) at the shoulder. 
  • As a final example,  compensatory adjustments “down the chain” at the next “link” - the elbow can take the hit- excessive grip squeeze on the club leading to medial epicondylitis (“golfers elbow”) and/or excess stress on the wrist extensors leading to lateral epicondylitis (“tennis elbow”…which also occurs in golf).

Being mindful of your biomechanical setup from the start will not only prevent injury, but also help keep you on par. 

To book an appointment with Dr. Klody for a golf-specific biomechanical evaluation aimed at identifying your specific deficits, call our clinic in Burr Ridge at (630) 230-9565.    

Dr. Christine Klody has both her Doctorate and Masters of Physical Therapy from Northwestern University School of Medicine.  She has been treating patients for almost 15 years, with one of her specializations/passions being sports medicine.  She has effectively treated hundreds of athletes including golfers.  She is a Certified Strength Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and worked closely with/ trained under the first Physical Therapy Director on the PGA Tour.