With the golf season back in full swing and the Irish Open this weekend, it’s the perfect time to get some advice on how to keep your game injury free.
You may associate golf as a good way to ruin a nice walk, a retired man’s game or just a way to see friends. You could also be one of those people who strive to be the best and hit the top levels of the sport, aim to be like Rory McIlroy or Graeme McDowell or are just happy with winning the weekly comp!
With golf it may seem that you don’t need to expend much energy or put your body under much stress but there are a few things in this article that may change how you approach your round of golf.
So guess what is the most commonly injured area of your body?
You guessed it, the lower back!
Lower back pain is an increasingly frequent injury seen in amateur and professional golfers. We’ve found that more and more golfers are seeking medical advice and treatment for lower back pain than ever before.
Research has shown that lower back pain accounts for 25-62% of golf specific injuries with over 30% of pro golfers saying that they have played with lower back pain at some point in their career.
With golf it is the swing that can do the damage but how does this happen?
The lower back is designed to flex (bend forward) and extend (arch back), it is not designed to rotate (turn/twist). Is it any wonder so many people are complaining of lower back pain with the amount of rotational force that is put through the body when swinging a golf club, especially with everyone trying to hit the ball as far as Tiger Woods!
Trunk rotation is a major factor for lower back pain and is integral during the golf swing. The combination of compression, torsion and lateral bending are known risk factors for spinal disc injuries. During a golf swing the lumbar spine has to sustain compressive loads of up to 8 times bodyweight (about 6100N in amateurs and 7584N in professional golfers). In comparison, studies indicate that disc problems can occur at 5800N of force. This is less than the golf swing forces in both amateurs and professionals so it is no wonder why back problems occur.
During a golf swing, when a golfer rotates into the backswing, if there is a limitation in the golfer’s rotational range the body has to compensate to get the golf club to the top of the backswing. The golfer will begin to extend and side-flex through the lumbar spine putting increased stress across the facet joints and other structures. From that extended and side-flexed position at the top of the backswing, the player then begins to flex and rotate as they downswing and it is this repeated extension/flexion/rotary movement of the lumbar spine that can lead to biomechanical overload of the lumbar region.
What can I do to help reduce my risk?
Make sure that you warm-up before playing.
Improving your core stability will reduce the detrimental forces through the spine. So, if these muscles are all working for you properly then the discs and joints in your lower spine are being held securely in their correct positions – even if your swing gets a bit out of control.
Increases in hip range of motion will help reduce spinal rotation at the lower back allowing a better swing and less risk of lower back injury.
Strengthening your glutes (buttock) will stabilize the hip during a swing and increase your power and hopefully distance.
Have regular massage and get assessed by a Physiotherapist to check your flexibility and strength.
That’s how we can help!
Please get in touch if you are having any issues or just want some advice.