Studies have shown that up to 50% of golfers will suffer an injury during the golf season, the most common of these injuries being to the low back. The golf swing requires significant rotation of the low back, hips, and shoulders to achieve proper form and adequate power. The common amateur golfer is typically not conditioned enough with flexibility and strength throughout these regions to safely maintain these positions. When accompanied by high speeds generated during the swing, many every day golfers are setting themselves up for injury. Even professionals who are the most elite in the game and continually fine-tune their golf swing are susceptible to injury due to the stress placed on these muscle groups. So what can professionals, amateurs, weekend aces, and the stereotypical hackers do to prevent the development of low back injury?
A simple warm-up routine prior to beginning your round can be extremely beneficial in preventing injury occurrence and also help in potentially lowering your scores. How many times have you played a round and said to yourself, “after I got warmed up past the first 4-5 holes, I really started playing well”? I know I’ve said it to myself many times. By utilizing a simple warm-up of at least 10-15 minutes, your blood flow will be increased and muscles will show improvements in initial flexibility and muscle performance. Incorporating this warm up routine, focusing on functional movements, will allow that first tee drive and all subsequent shots to be more fluid and relaxed. Try giving yourself this extra time before your tee time to devote a small bucket of range balls to short iron shots if you prefer. More importantly, add in the extra time to complete dynamic stretching and flexibility activities. Try using a club, such as one of your mid-irons, to complete trunk rotations with a wide base of support from your legs. Add rotations with bending forward and backward to increase this motion. Place your hands overhead while holding the club and complete squats, going low enough to get your thighs parallel to the ground (keep your knees behind your toes by pushing your butt back). Complete lunges in all three planes (forward/backward, side to side, and diagonal) as golf requires tri-plane motion. Try incorporating upper body bending forward/backward and twisting with these lunges to further improve hip and back mobility. With a quick 10-15 minutes, your body can be warmed up and ready for that first swing, placing the muscles and ligaments in optimal position to maintain proper form during your round and further prevent injury.
If you develop a low back, or other injury, while returning to the golf season this year, don’t hesitate in seeking help from a physical therapist. Discovering the underlying cause and further preventing injury quickly will not only return you to the course faster, but will keep you playing longer and potentially even help lower that handicap.
Dr. Kyle Vollmer, PT, DPT